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Montreal, October 9, 2012 --- The human rights commission staff has recommended the dismissal of the case of a Filipina live-in caregiver, after an Immigration Quebec official ended an interview for her Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ) application on the grounds that the woman was on maternity leave and was therefore deemed not being “on active work.”

The reasons cited by the Commission staff are simple: according to the department, the woman was not turned away because she was on maternity leave and deemed not being “on active work”, but because she came to the application interview without the required documents. In addition, it was deemed that the duration of her denial was only two months (she did get her CSQ two months after the second attempt) and that there was minimal prejudice to her.

In April 2011, Jane, who arrived in Canada from the Philippines as part of the Live-In Caregiver (LIC) program in 2006, 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 child, her Medicare card expired. She called the Régie de l’assurance-maladie du Québec (the Quebec Health Insurance Board, or RAMQ) 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 workers have the same status as their parents. At that time, Jane did not have a CSQ, and the open work permit that she had received also did not qualify her and her son, for medicare coverage.

After visiting RAMQ, Jane finally received notice from the Quebec Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities (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 Jane, the official said that the MICC does not issue a CSQ to applicants who are not on “active work”.

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 legal status.

In December 2011, Jane went for another interview at the MICC for her CSQ application and was finally 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. During the two months of non-coverage, she had to pay $200 from her own pocket for her son’s medical needs and felt more diminished as an immigrant woman, a mother and a domestic worker.

Jane mandated CRARR to act on her behalf in filing a complaint with the human 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 .

In August 2012, the Commission staff recommended the dismissal of the complaint after receiving a reply from the MICC to the effect that the civil servant denied terminating the meeting because Jane was on maternity leave. The department's official version is: “since [Jane] was on maternity leave when she went in for her interview for a CSQ, additional documents were required. Her application was not refused but put on hold until the additional documents were submitted.” However, at no time was Jane informed that these documents were required when submitting her application or before coming to the meeting.

CRARR challenged the recommendation for dismissal on several grounds. For instance, the Commission made no mention of the MICC’s policy or procedure, or lack thereof, in processing CSQ applications from live-in caregivers who may be on maternity leave. It is well known that Jane’s case is not the first or only case of this nature; Jane was not afraid, however, to file a civil rights complaint.

In other words, there was no in-depth enquiry as to whether Jane’s treatment was an isolated case, the result of a systematic practice (what the so-called “additional documents” were and why they were not required from applicants before coming the meeting) or the result of systemic discrimination (where there was no intent to discriminate but where the department’s practices had the effect of discriminating against LIC on maternity leave).

Based on a single response letter from the MICC (which was not disclosed to the complainant), the Commission quickly sided with the department’s version of facts. The Commission's final decision is pending and will be subjected to judicial review if negative.

There have been questions raised concerning the Commission’s handling of complaints of civil rights violations involving Filipina live-in caregivers, which resulted in ineffective or lack of protection for these women, many of whom live in vulnerable economic and social situations.

In May 2009, Pinay, a local Filipinas' rights group, filed a complaint on behalf of 26 LICs who were subjected to discrimination, harassment and exploitation by an immigration consultant; after three investigations, the case was rejected in June 2012. Pinay and eight of the 26 women have filed for judicial review of Commission’s decision due to numerous irregularities and errors of fact and law (see

Three other cases of discrimination against Filipina LICs were filed by CRARR in June 2011, also involving some individuals related to the May 2009 cases. Investigation into these cases has begun in late summer 2012.

The ineffective civil rights protection for live-in caregivers in Quebec has been brought this week by Pinay to the attention of the UN as part of its Universal Periodic Review of Canada in 2013.