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Montreal, May 21, 2011--- After holding a demonstration on May 10, 2011 in front of the office of Quebec Immigration and Cultural Communities Minister Kathleen Weil, Filipina live-in caregivers, who were exposed to discrimination and exploitation and whose complaint to the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission was about to be dismissed, will bring their case to next month's meeting of the International Labour Organization in Geneva.

Two weeks ago, PINAY,a Filipino women's organization, joined other groups such as the Immigrant Workers Center, CRARR and the South Asian Women's Community Center, in calling on Quebec Premier Jean Charest to act to protect them from discrimination and exploitation from a local consultant-recruiter who regularly went to Asia year after year to bring these women to Montreal under contractual arrangements for employment.

These women paid him an average fee of $4,000 U.S., plus their own transport to come to Montreal; upon their arrival, most were informed that the promised employers were no longer available. They were not reimbursed. Most were housed in the consultant's properties, where housing conditions were substandard, and had to sign leases for which they did not get a copy. In many cases, leasing clauses were added by the recruiter landlord after the signing of the lease, without the women's knowledge and consent. When they left the premises, they were taken before the Rental Board for not respecting lease conditions; unrepresented by counsel, many lost and had to pay additional moneys to the recruiter.

Through PINAY, these women filed a complaint of civil rights violations on May 6, 2009. However, it took the Commission almost 9 months to meet with a dozen women to obtain their versions of facts (whereas according to standard procedures, victims or complainants are met within 2 to 3 months for a preliminary evaluation of their complaints at the intake stage).

Four months after the complaint was filed, the respondent recruiter passed away. Five weeks after being informed of his death, the Commission wrote to the dead man to summon him to an investigation meeting. This prompted Jovita, one of the victims, to say: “This is not serious protection, it's comic relief.”

It is not made known whether the Commission interviewed the recruiter's associates as named in the caregivers' statements, or visited the premises where the women were housed.

At no time between the date of filing of the complaint till October 2010, when the Commission wanted at first to close the case due to the recruiter's death, were the 26 women and PINAY representatives assisted in the investigation and informed by the Commission of their rights, including the right to claim damages and the possibility of naming additional respondents. In April 2011, the Commission stated that it is now too late to name these individuals as additional respondents due to the 3-year prescription deadline for civil action against them.

When informed of evidence of other persons' active involvements in the women's treatment, which included testimonies made under oath for Rental Board litigation, the Commission took the position that these were litigated cases that could not be revisited. Yet there are still at least eight active cases involving ten women and the same recruiter landlord before the Rental Board.

As a result of the main respondent's death and the inability to name anyone else responsible for the women's plight, the Commission proceeded on May 10 to recommend the dismissal of the caregivers' complaint, which would lead to these women being denied access to justice and protection after two years.

A written request jointly submitted in January 2011 by CRARR and PINAY to Minister Weil, which contained numerous recommendations for measures to improve civil rights protections for live-in caregivers in general, and to combat human trafficking, went unanswered to date. The Minister's department is responsible for the Quebec Government's Plan of action against racism, in which access of victims to effective protection from racial discrimination is a key component. The employment contract between a live-in caregiver and the employer, which is approved by the Quebec Immigration, makes mention of labor standards but not civil rights and protection from discrimination and harassment.

“The Government should appoint an independent inquiry to do the job correctly,” said PINAY's President Evelyn Calugay. “If the human rights commission can't protect these women who were so obviously exploited and discriminated against, who can?”

Since October 2010, CRARR has received a mandate from PINAY and 12 of the 26 women to assist them with their case. It is assisting other Filipina live-in caregivers who arrived more recently and who still experience similar treatments in immigation, employment and housing.

Ms. Calugay will participate in the ILO meeting where she will seek support from groups around the world for the case and to hold Canada accountable for failing to protect these women and other Filipina live-in caregivers in Montreal.

To read more about the ILO meeting in Geneva next week: