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Montreal, July 6, 2012 --- A Filipina live-in caregiver has filed a civil rights complaint against the Quebec Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities (MICC), after a department official refused her an interview for her Quebec Selection Certificate application on the grounds that the woman was on maternity leave and was therefore deemed not being “on active work.”

The case marks one of the few times a civil rights claim is filed by a live-in caregiver against the MICC for discrimination; in this case, discrimination based on gender intersecting with national origin and other grounds.

The young Filipina, Jane (not her real name), arrived in Canada as part of the Live-In Caregiver (LIC) program in 2006. After working as a LIC, she was granted an open work permit, which expired in April 2011 and was renewed in July 2011. In April 2011, she went on a one-year maternity leave and gave birth to a son at a local hospital in May.

Shortly after the birth of her baby, her Medicare card expired. She called the Régie de l’assurance-maladie du Québec (the Quebec Health Insurance Board, or RAMQ), and visited the RAMQ headquarters to reapply. She also took this opportunity to apply for a RAMQ card for her son, a Canadian-born citizen. RAMQ policy dictates that Canadian-born children of migrant parents have the same status as their parents. Thus, despite being born in Canada and meeting the Quebec residency requirements, Jane was denied A RAMQ card for her son. At that time, she did not have a Selection Certificate of Quebec (CSQ), and the open work permit that she had received, also, did not qualify her for a card.

After visiting RAMQ, Jane finally received notice from the MICC concerning an interview date for the issuance of her CSQ. When she went for the interview in October 2011, it was cut short after barely 5 minutes by a female civil servant when the latter found out that she was on maternity leave. According to the official, the MICC does not issue a CSQ to applicants who are not on “active work”.

However, prior to her maternity leave, Jane had been paying benefits, which should have covered her maternity leave.

Jane then returned to the RAMQ to reapply for her son and was once again told that her son was not eligible for RAMQ coverage because of her own precarious status as a temporary worker; in other words, his Canadian citizenship status was deemed secondary or subservient to her own. As advised by the interviewer, she wrote to RAMQ’s main office stating her condition and request.

In December 2011, Jane went for another interview at the MICC for her CSQ application, which was approved; she finally received her CSQ in the mail before Christmas. Subsequently, she was finally approved for RAMQ coverage for both herself and her son.

This situation was very stressful for Jane as a new mother. She was very aware that if an emergency medical situation arose, her son would not have any medical coverage even if he was legally a Canadian citizen (the RAMQ regularly practices this form of exclusion despite court decisions declaring it discriminatory and illegal). During the six months of non-coverage by the RAMQ, she paid for her son’s regular medical check-ups and consultations out-of-pocket, bills which cost at least $200, and which caused her financial hardship (in light of her meagre income as a domestic worker).

In addition, the situation made Jane feel anxious and uncomfortable when dealing with government representatives who acted in a openly discriminatory and illegal manner.

Jane mandated the CRARR to act on her behalf in filing a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission against the MICC for discrimination based on gender intersecting with national origin, race, civil status and social condition. In addition to claims of violations of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, the complaint also invokes violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (art. 15), and other international conventions such as those related to the rights of women and children.

”Gender equality is a fundamental Quebec value, and that the “respect for the dignity of human beings, equality of women and men, and recognition of their rights and freedoms constitutes the foundation of justice, liberty and peace,“ according to the Quebec Charter”, cites the complaint. ”Thus, the Respondent’s practice of gender-based discrimination directed at an immigrant and racialized woman requires firm sanctions under the Quebec Charter.”

CRARR also submits that the practice is a clear violation of the requirements laid out by the International Labour Organization’s Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, which was adopted in 2011, specifically article 14:

Article 14

1. Each Member shall take appropriate measures, in accordance with national laws and regulations and with due regard for the specific characteristics of domestic work, to ensure that domestic workers enjoy conditions that are not less favourable than those applicable to workers generally in respect of social security protection, including with respect to maternity.

2. The measures referred to in the preceding paragraph may be applied progressively, in consultation with the most representative organizations of employers and workers and, where they exist, with organizations representative of domestic workers and those representative of employers of domestic workers.

The civil rights claims include moral and punitive damages; demands that the MICC implement policy guidelines, which ensure the right to the equal protection and the equal benefit of the law for live-in caregivers, as well as, all immigrant and migrant female workers using its services and programs; and mandatory civil rights training for department officials.

Jane is not the only live-in caregiver who has faced such obstacles and discrimination because of different government policies and programs, but she is one of the very few who has stood up against these practices. Another live-in caregiver has spent more than $7,000 in medical bills for her Canadian born child, due to similar exclusionary obstacles.

These barriers have been discussed at CRARR's March 2012 round-table on the ILO's Convention and by the human rights commission’s comprehensive study of the situation published earlier this year. Jane’s complaint provides the Commission with the opportunity to promote, through legal actions, many of its recommendations and commitments to equality for migrant workers or live-in caregivers in Quebec.

To read the summary of the Commission’s study: