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Montreal, November 9, 2010 --– CRARR has received a mandate from PINAY, a local Filipino women’s organization, to help 26 live-in caregivers whose civil rights complaint is being threatened with rejection by the Quebec human rights commission due to what many see as a badly handled investigation.

In May 2009, PINAY filed a complaint with the on behalf of 26 women who were the object of discrimination, harassment and exploitation in employment and housing by J.A., who recruited them from Asia. Alleged civil rights violations include substandard housing and health conditions; fraudulent employment contracts and employers; forced labor without compensation; harassment and intimidation including threatened deportation; restriction of mobility; rent exploitations; spurious rental contracts; and abusive legal actions against the women for nonpayment of “rent.”

All 26 caregivers, whose ordeal began upon their arrival in Montreal, filed written statements detailing their conditions of employment and housing, which were attached to the civil rights complaint. They also named in their statements, four specific individuals who worked with J.A. and who actively participated in the maintenance and perpetuation of the abusive employment and housing conditions. Moreover, these women clearly described their housing conditions which some may consider as being akin to quasi-slavery.

Due to the death of J.A. in September 2009, and the fact that the latter's agency is not a moral person, the Commission interviewed his daughter. However, since the daughter denied any involvement in her father’s affairs and properties, its investigative staff recommended that the complaint be rejected.

Apprehensive of possible bias, PINAY President Evelyn Calugay mandated CRARR to assist the organization and the 26 women dealing with what is seen as a “botched job.” After reviewing the file, CRARR found several anomalies, including the fact that there was no reference to PINAY’s May 2009 complaint. Specifically, it noted that the Commission failed to:

  • Explain to many of the 26 victims whom it interviewed, the remedies available to them, such as material, moral and punitive damages;
  • Take into account the names of at least J.A.'s four staff members who actively carried out many acts of discrimination, harassment and exploitation, who could have been held jointly responsible;
  • Heed the fact that J.A.’s daughter, in testimonies for rental board ligitation launched by her father against some caregivers over rent allegedly owed to him, did confirm her active and conscious participation in the management of her father’s affairs and properties;
  • Examine evidence that J.A.’s daughter and family relatives acted as appellants in two appeals filed in March 2010 seeking to reverse rental board decisions, that were rendered in February 2009 in favor of caregivers and against her father;
  • Properly identify PINAY as a complainant and send to the women’s group the Commission’s decision to investigate the case on the Commission’s own initiative;
  • Take into account Ms. Calugay’s report in mid-October 2010 of pressures from J.A.'s daughter and another staff member on some caregivers to withdraw their civil rights complaints – which is in and by itself a violation of Quebec human rights law.
  • CRARR has brought the matter to the attention of the Commission’s president regarding these investigative deficiencies and requested corrective actions.

    “We are astounded by the manner in which the human rights commission mishandles our case,” said Ms. Calugay. “We have heard of bias or incompetence in investigating complaints of racial discrimination before like the Gallardo case, but this is over the top. If we cannot trust the human rights commission to be fair and protect these women from discrimination, who can we turn to for help ?” said Calugay.

    In the Maria Gallardo case (which involves her son being reprimanded over his eating with a fork and a spoon in school and her being subsequently insulted for this), the Commission dismissed most of the allegations raised in the complaint filed by CRARR on behalf of the mother and the son. However, it was later discovered that the Commission met with several school board staff for their testimonies but never with the mother and the family’s witnesses. Furthermore, evidence against the boy was submitted by the school board for its defense but it was never transmitted to CRARR and the family for rebuttal.

    PINAY is publicly calling upon the Filipino community, women’s groups and other social justice organizations to support its efforts to obtain civil rights protection for the 26 women. It is planning further actions to protest the double jeopardy faced by these women and other victims of racism whose cases are badly handled by the Quebec human rights commission.

    CRARR will solicit support from civil rights groups in the United States that have worked on similar cases.