CHICAGO – Judge Thomas Davis of the Superior Court of Quebec in Montreal, Canada heard last Sept. 20 arguments on whether there is merit to further hear the application of eight Filipina live-in caregivers (LICs) for a judicial review of a ruling on a case filed with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
The caregivers alleged that the commission had committed gross negligence and irregularities in the handling of their case. This prompted the LICs to bring the case to the Superior Court of Quebec which they asked to require the commission to do properly its investigation.
Me Heidy Melissa Arango, counsel of the LICs, said Judge Davis “will first decide whether PINAY, a Quebec Filipino women’s group, and the LICs’ motion for judicial review should be dismissed or not. If the judge decides not to dismiss the motion, then the case will go on.”
“The commission, an administrative agency, made numerous errors in its investigation, and that is why we are asking the Superior Court to send the case back to the commission so it can correct its own errors,” Arango said.
At the hearing held last Sept. 20, Athanassia Bitzakidis, the commission’s lawyer, presented argument for the dismissal of the motion for judicial review. Arango presented counter-argument for the Superior Court to continue hearing the motion.
The counsels’ arguments essentially concern the “delay in the filing a motion for judicial review, the nature of the decision, the commission’s exercise of its discretionary power and procedural fairness.”
Arango said, “This is a case of severe discrimination, harassment and exploitation of these women over a period of several years and the commission failed to protect these women as it was negligent in the handling of their complaint.”
“This is a case of public interest and its outcome will have an impact on Filipino community’s perception of the Canadian justice system and on domestic workers in general. Also at stake is Canada’s commitment to its international obligations to protect domestic and migrant workers from discrimination and exploitation.”
The eight Filipino live-in caregivers are seeking payment of CAD$10,000 each from the commission.The case came about when 26 Filipino women, who, with PINAY’s assistance, filed in May 2009 the complaint with the human rights commission against John Aurora, a West Island (Quebec) immigration consultant and recruiter, who died in September 2009.
Aurora used to travel to Hong Kong and other Asian cities to recruit workers for a fee of US$4,000 from each worker. Once the women arrived in
Montreal, they were subjected to abusive employment, housing conditions and mistreatments, it was alleged.
Because they were not given the promised live-in caregiver jobs, they spent their own money for their stay while they awaited confirmation of new job offers and issuance of their new work permits.
They signed agreements with Aurora to rent his house, while they endured substandard living conditions that forced them to sleep on the floor.
Their complaint filed in October 2010 with Quebec Human Rights Commission was dismissed in June 2012 due to the death of Aurora and the claim that his daughter had no involvement in the agreements.
The motion filed with the Superior Court of Quebec in August 2012 alleged that the commission’s handling of the case was fraught with irregularities, negligence and other problems, among which are as follows:
The commission waited nine months to meet with four of the victims, contrary to standard preliminary evaluation practice of meeting them within two to three months from the filing of the complaint; it failed to produce a standard investigation report after three years of investigation contrary to its own guidelines; it failed to inform victims of their right to name other persons, who engaged in acts of discrimination and exploitation as corespondents; and it ruled that Aurora’s successor couldn’t be held liable for punitive damages, contrary to a 2010 Supreme Court decision.
Evelyn Calugay, PINAY president, in a phone interview, said, PINAY is grateful for the help of Arango and her supervising lawyer Walter Tom. Arango even paid for the CAD$271 court and bailiff’s fees “because our group composed of 250 members has no money. The commission’s errors and its decision to close the file are not acceptable.”