MONTREAL, Feb. 20, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - The Commission des droits de la
personne et des droits de la jeunesse is urging the Québec government
to change its immigration law and programs to put an end to the
systemic discrimination of migrant workers.
In an opinion released today, the Commission concludes that live-in
caregivers, seasonal agricultural workers and other foreign temporary
low-skilled workers are victims of systemic discrimination on the basis
of their ethnic or national origin, race, social condition, language
and in the case of live-in caregivers, their sex.
"Our opinion clearly demonstrates the severe vulnerability in which
migrant workers find themselves," said Gaétan Cousineau, president of
the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse.
"They are entitled to the protection of the Québec Charter of Human
Rights and Freedoms just as permanent residents and citizens. Migrant
workers are part of our social fabric and contribute to the economic
life of Québec," he added.
In 2010, almost 7,000 low-skilled migrant workers, most of them from
Guatemala, Mexico and the Caribbean were employed primarily in Québec's
agricultural sector. Among these, about 400 live-in caregivers, mostly
from the Philippines, worked in Quebec families as nannies or domestic
The Commission believes the vulnerable situation of temporary foreign
workers exerts a downward pressure on the working conditions of all
employees in these sectors. Without ready access to migrant workers,
many Québec employers would be forced to improve unsatisfactory working
conditions for these kinds of jobs.
The Québec government should set up a permanent immigration program and
thus limit the use of migrant workers, according to the Commission.
Moreover, it recommends to the Ministère de l'Immigration et des
Communautés culturelles that only workers who have a sectorial permit
be accepted and to outlaw the obligation to live with the employer.
This obligation can compromise several rights protected under the
Charter, namely the right to privacy and the inviolability of the home.
The constant physical presence of live-in caregivers makes it also
difficult for them to separate their private and professional lives and
can complicate, among other things, the calculation of overtime hours.
Because of their immigration status, migrant workers are forced to hold
a work permit restricted to a single job and a single employer and
compels them to live with their employer. Not only does this restrict
their freedom of establishment and their access to the family class
program, but it infringes on their right to freedom and their right to
fair and reasonable conditions of employment which have proper regard
for their health, safety and physical well-being.
As migrant worker have difficulty in establishing residence, they are
also excluded from the protection of social programs and do not have a
right, in particular, to legal aid, social assistance, public education
(at the discretion of local school boards) and to immigration support
programs, including French-language classes, although most of them are
Spanish or English- speaking.
The opinion explains that: "A better knowledge of French would
nevertheless help them get higher marks in the selection grid applied
to self-employed workers."
Moreover, in some circumstances, migrant workers are excluded from
certain provisions of the Labour Code, the Act respecting labour
standards and the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases.
As a result, they do not have the right to the same working conditions
enjoyed by Québec workers who are hired for the same jobs, in
particular as they relate to paid hours of overtime and paid time off.
In order to prevent abuses, the Commission also recommends that the
government establish a better system to supervise agencies who recruit
migrant workers all the while offering these workers protection when
they are threatened to be returned to their country of origin, as a
result of a conflict with an employer or if they file a complaint. The
Commission believes that there should be an independent mechanism where
migrant workers could be heard in cases of repatriation following a
decision by the employer, the consulate of the country of origin or the
Canadian Border Services Agency.
Since 2005, the Commission has intervened on many occasions in favour of
migrant workers through human rights educational activities,
cooperation and by representations to various forums and since 2008,
has been working with the Comité interministériel permanent sur la protection des travailleurs
étrangers temporaires peu spécialisés.
The opinion La discrimination systémique à l'égard des travailleuses et de
travailleurs migrants is available at www.cdpdj.qc.ca. An English-language summary is also available.
514 873-5146 or 1 800 361-6477 ext. 230
SOURCE Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse
For further information:
514 873-5146 or 1 800 361-6477 ext. 230