FILIPINA LIVE-IN CAREGIVER CASES STILL UNDER INVESTIGATION BY QUEBEC’S HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
Montreal, July 31, 2014 --- Three women live-in caregivers from the Philippines sharing similar experiences of discrimination and exploitation in Montreal through their contracts of employment and housing agreements with a live-in caregiver recruitment agency, may have to wait longer to obtain protection and compensation from the Quebec justice system.
All these women are from the Philippines, in their 30s, have little support network in Montreal, and have very limited knowledge of their rights, a basic knowledge of English and little knowledge of French.
Three years after some of these cases were initially brought to the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission (QHRYRC) by CRARR, there is still no end in sight for the investigation into their complaints. In the meantime, many of these abusive and discriminatory practices continue to be committed by unscrupulous employers and “immigration consultants” against many immigrant women coming to Quebec as live—in caregivers, while government authorities turn a blind eye to these women’s plight.
The following cases in point illustrate the Filipina live-in caregiver’s plight (all names have been changed to protect the women’s privacy and safety):
In 2005, while Christine was living in Taiwan and looking for work as a live-in caregiver, she came across an advertisement for S.N. (S.N is also owned by the owner of J.A.E) and immediately contacted the agency for employment information. She spoke on the phone with a representative from S.N. in Montreal who told her if she paid the agency’s fee of approximately $4,000, S.N would process her application and provide her with a Canadian employer. After careful consideration, Christine agreed and paid for the agency’s services to work on her file.
However, in 2008, she received a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada informing her that her work permit had been refused because her Canadian employer failed to meet the necessary requirements. Feeling perplexed, she contacted S.N. in regards to finding another employer. Sometime in 2012, S.N. found her a new employer in Montreal and she was eventually granted a work permit.
Prior to her arrival, she was told by both, S.N. and her Canadian employer that she was responsible for paying for her own travel fees to Canada, which she did and paid approximately $60,000 pesos. However, according to the Department of Immigration and Cultural Communities of Quebec, the employer is responsible for paying for all of the employee’s travel expenses.
In addition, shortly after arriving to Canada in 2012, she decided to quit her job after 2 months of work because her Canadian employer violated the terms of her contract of employment by making her work an unsafe amount of hours and withholding her salary. She was forced to work 65 hours per week instead of the contractual agreement of 40, and was refused to be paid for 80 hours of regular work and 2 days of overtime work.
Before resigning, Christine asked her employer on multiple occasions to pay for her unpaid wages and was threatened to be reported to immigration authorities and deported if she persisted on asking. Feeling exploited, threatened and vulnerable at the same time, she stopped asking because she was scared of being deported.
In 2013, Christine sought help from PINAY (a woman’s rights group from Montreal) in drafting her letter of resignation. Through PINAY, she was informed about her civil rights and advised to mandate CRARR to act on her behalf to protect her rights.
In a complaint filed with the QHRYRC, CRARR is claiming more than $30,000 in moral and punitive damages from her past employer.
In 2006, Anita met with a representative from J.A.E. in Taiwan, who told her if she paid the agency fee of $4,500 (CAD), J.A.E. would help process her application and find her a Canadian employer. Feeling confident, she agreed to their terms of services, paid the fees and contracted the agency to work on her file.
In addition, J.A.E. was run by a well-known Montreal-based now-deceased recruiter who had been the target of numerous civil rights actions, before and after his death in 2010.
In January 2010, Anita arrived in Montreal and was met at the airport by J.A.E. representatives who drove her to a home owned and operated by the agency’s owner located in Beaconsfield. Upon arrival, she was informed that her Canadian employer was no longer available and that she did not have a valid working permit. Feeling vulnerable and uncertain regarding her employment future in Canada, she was told if she wanted to stay she had to sign a lease agreement and rent from the recruitment agency’s owner.
Unaware of her civil, housing and employment rights in Canada, she was pressured into residing in a home with five other Filipinas who were also recruited as live-in caregivers through the same agency. In addition, she only signed a lease several months after her arrival and did not receive a copy until later in 2011. The apartment was also in sub-standard condition, and her room was damp, smelled foul, and had insufficient heating. Feeling unsafe, manipulated and vulnerable, Anita tried to vacate the premises in November 2010 and was threatened to be sued by her landlord at the Rental Board.
As a result of being discriminated and exploited, she mandated CRARR in 2011 to act on her behalf and file a civil rights complaint, claiming $50, 000 in moral and punitive damages from three key J.A.E. representatives for violations of her civil rights.
While searching for employment in Canada as a live-in caregiver, Rosita met with a representative from J.A.E. in Taiwan who told her if she paid the agency fee of $4,995 U.S, J.A.E. would help process her application and find her an employer in Canada. After careful consideration, Rosita decided to pay the fees and contracted the agency to work on her file.
In 2009, Rosita arrived in Montreal and was met at the airport by representatives from J.A.E. who immediately drove her to a house in Beaconsfield, which was owned and operated by the owner of J.A.E. Although she did have a Canadian employer awaiting her, she only worked for one week and decided to quit because her employer forced her to work in unsafe working conditions that were too demanding and rigid. The family had a large house with 3 children, which proved to be too much for one caregiver to handle.
In addition, the day after her arrival, she was pressured into signing a lease with J.A.E. acting as her landlord without being explained the contractual arrangements and she was not given a copy of the lease
When Rosita arrived at the apartment, she was shocked to discover that it was in a sub-standard condition and overcrowded with other Filipina live-in caregivers, had a strong repugnant smell, and the door to her room did not have a lock, depriving her of privacy. As a result, she wanted to terminate her lease with the owner from J.A.E. acting as her landlord, for failing to fulfill their agency’s service agreement and for making her living in sub-standard housing conditions. However, her landlord refused to provide her with the information needed to mail the registered notice despite her repeated requests.
Knowing that she has been discriminated and exploited, she mandated CRARR to file a civil rights complaint with the QHRYRC against the agency and two key representatives claiming $52,000 for moral and punitive damages.
In 2011, the International Labor Organization (ILO) based in Geneva adopted the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers (known as Convention 189). Canada has not ratified this Convention although many Canadians, including workers' advocates and unions from Montreal, played an active role in helping push through this instrument.