Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Migrant Workers - Part 4

Back to the compare-and-contrast exercise of "Migrant Workers" in Singapore vs Canada. If you have not read my previous blog entries on this series, you can find them here (part 1, part 2 and part 3).

Read here, an article by Yawning Bread that shows what happens in Singapore when one dares to question the Ministry of Manpower (a government agency) on what seems to be an anomaly in their staff's actions.


Let us look at how the Superior Court of Quebec, Canada, handled a case which challenges the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission's dismissal of a complaint filed by PINAY (the "Organisation des Femmes Philippins du Quebec" or "Filipino Women’s Organization in Quebec") on behalf of 26 Filipina LICs (Live-In Caregivers). For more details on the case, please click here and here for the Press Releases from PINAY and here for a report from CRARR (Center for Research-Action on Race Relations).

Below is a brief of what happened, as extracted from the above PINAY Press Releases and CRARR report.

1. Over a 5 year period, at least 40 Filipina women paid an average of US$4,000 to John Aurora’s agency (Super Nanny) to obtain work permits and immigration papers to work as Live-in Caregivers (LIC) in Montreal, Canada. In addition to the fees paid to Aurora’s agency, these women had to pay their own airfare.

2. Between between 2004 and 2008, 16 were told upon arrival that their initial employer designated in the Quebec Employment Contract was no longer available, and they were never reimbursed.
[Note: For the Live-in Caregivers visa, the TFW (temporary foreign worker) must live-in at the premises of the specified employer designated in their employment contract and work permit. If they need to change employers for any reason, they must re-apply and wait for a new work permit to be issued for the new employer, which typically takes at least 4-6 months. LICs are strictly prohibited from working until their new work permit is issued. Click here and here for more about LIC visa.]
3. Many of the TFWs were required (i.e. made) to do unpaid labour for Aurora while awaiting the confirmation of a new LIC job offer and the issuance of a new work permit.

4. These TFWs were also pressurized to sign a lease to become tenants in Aurora's various properties, where many women would live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Almost all tenants had to pay an illegal deposit of $150 for furniture, late fees and other penalties that are clearly forbidden by Quebec housing laws. They were also not given a copy of their tenancy agreement. They only realized that Aurora had secretly added clauses holding them jointly liable for the rent, without their knowledge, when they were brought to the Rental Board for breaking the lease or for rent owed. 

5. In May 2009, on behalf of 26 LICs, PINAY filed a civil rights complaint against Aurora and Super Nanny, his agency, with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, claiming discrimination based on race, gender, ethnic or national origin, and social condition.

6. The Commission responded in June 2009 by contacting PINAY by telephone, for a follow-up. In August 2009, the Commission began its investigation into the case.

7. In October 2009, PINAY informed the Commission of the death of John Aurora. In early November 2009, the Commission wrote to John Aurora, summoning him to its office for investigation and requesting him to bring all pertinent papers.

8. In February 2010, the Commission met with 12 of the 26 women to obtain their declarations. However, it did not inform them of the damages they could claim and the possibility of citing John Aurora’s associates as co-respondents in the case.

9. In October 2010, the Commission interviewed John Aurora’s daughter and then notified PINAY of its intent to close the file due to John Aurora’s death, because of his daughter’s denial of involvement and the fact that Super Nanny was not an incorporated business. 

10. At this point, PINAY mandated CRARR to handle the case "due to what many see as a badly handled investigation" by the Quebec Human Rights Commission -- quote from CRARR. CRARR found that the Commission failed to:
  • Explain to many of the 26 victims whom it interviewed, the remedies available to them, such as material, moral and punitive damages;
  • Take into account the names of at least John Aurora’s four staff members who actively carried out many acts of discrimination, harassment and exploitation, who could have been held jointly responsible;
  • Heed the fact that John Aurora’s daughter, in testimonies for rental board ligitation launched by her father against some caregivers over rent allegedly owed to him, did confirm her active and conscious participation in the management of her father's affairs and properties;
  • Examine evidence that John Aurora’s daughter and family relatives acted as appellants in two appeals filed in March 2010 seeking to reverse rental board decisions, that were rendered in February 2009 in favor of caregivers and against her father;
  • Properly identify PINAY as a complainant and send to PINAY the Commission's decision to investigate the case on the Commission's own initiative;
  • Take into account PINAY President's report in mid-October 2010 of pressures from John Aurora's daughter and another staff member on some caregivers to withdraw their civil rights complaints, which is in and by itself a violation of Quebec human rights law.
11. In March 2011, CRARR presented an amended version of the May 2009 civil rights complaint to the Quebec Human Rights Commission, in which it cites Aurora’s associates as co-respondents and specifies the damages to be claimed.

12. In April 2011, the Quebec Human Rights Commission (through the same investigator -- who was accused of handling the case badly in the first place) reiterating its recommendation to close the file based on the same grounds: 
  • the alleged facts of discrimination took place three years after the prescription for civil action (starting from the date of the amended complaint that cites additional respondents); 
  • John Aurora’s death; 
  • the fact that Super Nanny is not incorporated and that employees are not held responsible for the actions of their employer or personally responsible; and 
  • that John Aurora’s daughter cannot be held liable (based on the Commission's own interpretation of the "proof of her active involvement in the management of her father’s affairs").
13. PINAY applied for judicial review to reverse the Commission’s dismissal of the complaint. In addition, PINAY asked for a total of $90,000 in moral damages against the Commission for gross negligence.

14. On October 16, 2012, the Superior Court of Quebec ruled in favour of 8 LICs and PINAY for a judicial review of the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission’s negative decision about their case.

15. The judge rejected the Quebec Human Rights Commission's core arguments for dismissing judicial review, namely:
  • The application for judicial review was filed more than 5 months after the decision was taken; 
  • The Commission has fulfilled its duty of procedural fairness during the investigation; 
  • The Commission enjoyed large discretion in its investigation and that the women could still sue the respondents in regular courts at their own expense.
16. The Superior Court and its judge:
  • recognized that the circumstances in this particular case justify the delay of two months in filing the motion. 
  • emphasized the serious prejudice that the Filipina women would suffer if their motion for Judicial Review was dismissed. 
  • highlighted the importance of the present case and its potential for justice to present and future LICs. In fact, in the judge’s words, “the importance of the matter is further magnified by the fact that over and above the Plaintiffs, there are many Filipino caregivers arriving in Canada every day”.
  • recognized that “plaintiffs’ rights could be seriously prejudiced if their motion is dismissed at this stage. While it is true that they could institute proceedings on their own, and might ultimately have to do so, such proceedings would be costly and there is potential for prescription.
17. Ms. Evelyn Calugay, President of Pinay highlighted the social impact of the Superior Court's ruling, “The Court is sending a very important message to society as whole about the obstacles encountered by migrant and domestic workers in seeking protection against civil rights violations, something which the human rights commission seems to have problems understanding.”

18. The case is still on-going, pending a full hearing by the judiciary allow the Court to adjudicate on the validity of Plaintiff's [PINAY and the LICs] claims. The case is expected to cost the group several thousand dollars.


In the case highlighted by Yawning Bread, the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) 
  • did not assist the migrant worker in retrieving/extracting compensation from the "derelict employer" which its own Labour Court awarded, and its officers know that the employer had failed to pay.
  • "requested" that blogger Yawning Bread, censor his blog post which draw media attention to the case (and thus, MOM's own failings).
[This paragraph is added on 01-Feb-2013.] As for unions, as Yawning Bread highlighted, the SMRT strike clearly indicated a lack of independent unions in Singapore. According to MrBrown, the NTUC (National Trades Union Congress) director of the Unit for Contract and Casual Workers (UCCW) criticized the striking migrant workers for acting without the knowledge of the NTWU (National Transport Workers' Union). In turn, the NTWU issued a press statement saying that it does not have the legal mandate to represent the PRC bus workers of SMRT as they are not union members. So which is the actual union responsible? The NTUC/UCCW or the NTWU? What does the National in NTUC and NTWU stand for? Only people of Singaporean nationality? In contrast, unionized workers in B.C. Canada are always advised, "Do not cross a picket line, even if it is not your union on strike. Call your union representative for advice." because independent unions support each other in solidarity against unfair and/or unjust employment practice. In addition, for unionized jobs, all workers are paid an equitable rate based on union negotiation with the employers. Lastly, from my personal experience, the union will fight for you even if you're not their full-fledged member yet, because allowing discriminatory practices against one segment of the workers may lead eventually to undercutting and/or undermining the compensation/benefits of ALL workers.

IMHO, labour protection and civil rights movements are comparatively weak in Singapore. Firstly, there isn't a Human Rights Commission (or ombudsman) in Singapore. As far as I know, there isn't any civil rights organization in Singapore with enough funding to conduct its independent investigations (like CRARR) and to bank-roll an application for judiciary review (like PINAY). Thus, as far as I know, there isn't any court cases upon which to compare the performance of the Singapore judiciary vs that of the Quebecois (Canadian) judiciary. At least in Quebec, Canada, the Superior Court sent "a very important message to society as whole about the obstacles encountered by migrant and domestic workers in seeking protection against civil rights violations". In contrast, when I read of how even the Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin seemed to be oblivious the challenges faced by migrant workers in obtaining justice and fair treatment, I doubt there would be any significant improvement to the Singapore system anytime soon.

[p.s. Anyone out there who knows of such migrant workers-related court cases in Singapore (i.e. not the criminal cases prosecuted by the Singapore Attorney General's Chamber whereby compensation to the migrant workers is not on-the-plate), please drop a note in the comments section. Thanks!]

A foreign workers' dormitory in Singapore

Products of society

A Canadian friend wrote on his Facebook wall,
Suddenly remembering what my Sociology Prof said years ago on our 1st day: "You are all products of your society..."
I commented,
Fortunately or unfortunately, I failed the "product quality assurance checks" by my society (Singapore), and thus landed up in Canada. :-P
My Canadian friend FB "Like" my comment.

p.s. I don't think I want to be a "quality" product of the "uniquely Singapore" society. Click here, here and here to see why.


[Addendum on 01-Feb-2013]

Another friend (Iranian-origin, now residing in B.C., Canada) of my Canadian friend commented,
On the contrary, I think it is our society that is our product
My Canadian friend FB "Like" his comment.

IMHO, it is true too. The individuals/people form the society and also voted for the politicians who make the laws, which in turn creates societal norms which mould people's attitudes. That said, the implication of what it says about the typical Singaporean is pretty sad.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hammer shifts the ground

Ground-shattering news! Worker's Party (WP) hammered People's Action Party (PAP). It won by a clear margin in a 4-way By-Election fight. This is despite the lighting announcement of various goodies by PAP just before the By-Election date.

IMHO, this is good news! Not so much because WP won, but because it means that the voters in Punggol East (and by extension Singapore) have learned to vote strategically. I suspect that under "normal" circumstances, the anti-PAP vote would probably be split between the 3 alternative parties. [Thank goodness, SDP pulled out after its attempt at wayang. See my online discussion with CK in the comments section of this blog post.] In fact, over lunch on Friday with some (ex-)Singaporeans in B.C., Canada, several were betting that PAP would win as a result of the 4-way fight. The fact that WP won by a clear margin means that the voters at Punggol East (and by extension Singapore) has developed/matured -- to look beyond short term "carrots" announced and to align their votes to their most important priority (i.e. send in more opposition MPs by voting for the most likely alternative candidate to win).

Perhaps, just perhaps, there is hope for Singapore yet? I am so looking forward to the General Election 2016. In the meantime, I think PAP will be forced to declare another round of "slaughtering sacred cows" and/or "National CONversation".


On other news, The Online Citizen (TOC) trumps TODAYonline on timeliness of reporting "Punggol East by-election Polling Day as it unfolds" despite TOC being "crippled" to just a Facebook wall. TODAYonline's descriptive updates seem to hang after 10:25pm (Singapore time), with only the title changed to "Lee Li Lian wins Punggol East by-election". Why ah? Waiting for the editors to approve the "spin", is it?

[Sourced at 11:15pm Singapore time from

[Sourced at 11:24pm Singapore time from

p.s. Finally, I saw a descriptive update on TODAYonline at 11:42pm (Singapore time) or 7:42am (B.C., Canada time). 2 paragraphs at the top-of-page about WP candidate winning. The TODAYonline URL was changed from the
to the updated:
"SINGAPORE - Workers' Party candidate Lee Li Lian has won the Punggol East by-election, taking 54.5 per cent of the valid votes cast, over PAP candidate Koh Poh Koon's 43.7 per cent. 
Returning Officer Yam Ah Mee announced that of 29,415 valid votes cast, Ms Lee had taken a total of 16,038 votes, over Dr Koh's 12,856 votes. SDA candidate Desmond Lim, with 168 votes, and RP chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam, with 353 votes, both forfeited their election deposit." -- quoted from TODAYonline.

Lastly, is it my eyes or did the red lighting in the PAP's logo grow fatter over the decades? Let me see if I can find my 1970's PAP (Community Foundation) kindergarten report book.

[Update on 30-Jan-2013: Oops, I do not have my kindergarten report book with me. Maybe it's still with my parents or (more likely) maybe it has gone into the trash bin long ago.]

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Facebook exchange: Homophobic hate speech

Homophobia is well and alive in Singapore. Just these few days, I had another Facebook sparring with my right-wing Christian friend, LKM (again). LKM is from Westside Anglican Church.
[Aside: Normally I would hold the individual to account for his/her actions, and not name his/her religious association. However, in this case, I understand that LKM's homophobic views are reinforced by his church's teachings, and thus I would argue that the church is vicariously liable. For more background about homophobia in Singapore Anglican churches, read this article on "Asian Anglicans starts a crusade against the West and gays" by Rainbow Harvest.]
Perhaps the Workers Party is playing it smart by holding its stance on the homophobic Section 377A of the Penal Code (Singapore) close to their hearts. 377A affects political votes as there is a significant vocal and growing segment of right-wing Christians in Singapore. IMHO, this group is brainwashed with homophobic rhetoric that they cannot hold up to when challenged, but instead often hide behind the excuse that "it is not socially nice" to criticize others' views (see below for example).

At the moment, for the Punggol East By-Election, these right-wing Christian folks are campaigning for PAP so as to retain 377A. Based on my friend's Facebook postings, the reason for supporting PAP is because of Christopher de Souza's speech against the repeal of 377A back in October 2007. I think it is naive of these right-wing Christians to believe that PAP's current stance to retain 377A will remain forever. After all, PAP being the "pragmatic" political party of "hard rules" of life, had previously sold out the Christian lobby on the casino issue when it suited its political leaders' wish to grow the GDP.

Normally, I ignore LKM's rants when he gets all worked up about his Christian objectives. However, I stepped in when I saw that his rants degraded into homophobic hate speech.


[Our Facebook Exchange, edited to remove the real names of the individuals involved. The number of Facebook "Likes" are shown here when there is 1 or more likes.]

LKM: If homosexual intercourse is legally permissible, I fear for our Army !!!!
Like - 3 

LKM:  Snglish phrases like "kanna screw" takes on new meanings ...

AKCY: That would only be worrying if homosexual *rape* was permissible.
Like - 2

WD:  Heterosexual intercourse is legally permissible and there are women in the Army, so are there lots of "ungodly" action taking place in the army?
Don't jump the gun lah.

LKM:  Yah the SGT rape already then claim to be lover, how to bring to court since legalized ?

WD:  *Rape* is rape. Man rape man case should be brought to court the same way as man rape woman case. Why the gender discrimination?
Like · 1

LKM:  We're not even talking about godly or ungodly, a man poking another's backside is downright repulsive, we talking about endorsing SICKNESS by removing 377A ...

WD:  Also, may I add, woman rape man case should be brought to court the same way as man rape woman case or man rape man case.
Like · 1

LKM:  Imagine an army where soldier fight fellow soldier over a male lover .... *puke* Such an army really in for big trouble ...

WD:  > "man poking another's backside is downright repulsive, we talking about endorsing SICKNESS"
Quoting you, LKM, above. Is that a FACT or just your own narrow-minded OPINION?

LKM:  Google homosexual intercourse and advise me how else it's technically possible ...

LKM:  ... maybe there are other possible permutations but they all fall under pornographic domains ...

LKM:  ... now bring these into perspective of why anyone would want it legalized ...

KKP: "Disapproval of homosexuality cannot justify invading the houses, hearts and minds of citizens who choose to live their lives differently." -Harry A. Blackmun
"I'm a supporter of gay rights. And not a closet supporter either. From the time I was a kid, I have never been able to understand attacks upon the gay community. There are so many qualities that make up a human being... by the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant." -Paul Newman
Like - 4
WD:  So you find "man poking another's backside is downright repulsive" because you're heterosexual. You can always decline if a homosexual guy asks you for sex.
My point about distinguishing between FACT and OPINION is your judgement that the act itself is "downright repulsive" -- that's your opinion, not a fact.

LKM:  Agree about it being a fact that I find it repulsive. Just wondering who are those capable of accepting such a repulsive act *yucks*

LKM:  As far as I learn from Biology, backside is meant for shitting, that's a fact !
Like · 1

AL: Hi LKM, it sounds like you are grossed out by the act of anal sex, and that's not your only objection. Would that be right?

LKM:  And farting sometimes too ...

LKM:  I can accept the emotional aspects of 2 person having deep feelings, but the sex part which is what 377A is about should be maintained to upkeep the proper order of nature, man and woman ...
Like · 2

LKM:   ... and we're not talking about religion here yet ...

WD:  > Agree about it being a fact that I find it repulsive. Just wondering who are those capable of accepting such a repulsive act *yucks*
Some of my friends are. As far as I am concerned, there are many more qualities (and admirable ones too) about my homosexual friends that what they do with their private parts in the privacy of their bedrooms is none of my concern. 
E.g. Some of them have to deal daily with people like you (LKM) who judge them based on your own value system of "proper order of nature, man and woman" when your bible told you that judgement is only to be done by your god. Tsk, tsk, hope you're not trying to play god.
LKM:  Nope, my opinion purely mine. Happy that Singapore still have a governance with soundness that will hold on to Penal Code 377A so that I don't have to worry over my daughters and sons ....
Like · 1

LKM:  ... of course everyone is entitled to the freedom of their own private activities, but Penal Code 377A is about setting a baseline for a society, what constitutes acceptable norm, what constitutes not acceptable criminal activity ...

LKM:  ... and to me, the fact is that legalizing homosexual sex goes against the sound establishment of our Asian society ...

WD:  > baseline for a society, what constitutes acceptable norm, what constitutes not acceptable criminal activity
And that is why the baseline is being challenged (and I am happy to say that). You have a right to your OPINIONS and VALUE SYSTEM, just not the right to expect others to conform to your opinions or value system. 
> sound establishment of our Asian society ... 
You obviously are clueless on the sexual history of Asian societies. Even in karma sutra, there are extracts talking about homosexual acts.
Like · 1
KKP: How would you like it if someone started 'Shut Up LKM & Concentrate on your inane diet diary' Campaign? Maybe you would know how it feels to be ranted on...

LKM:  You sure got me there with the karma sutra bullshit haha ... but I still Kee Chiu in support for keeping Penal Code 377A !!


LKM:  It's seasonal lah ... I mean my rantings ... I change topic very readily ... but as far as this season is concern, I want to voice my UTMOST support for Penal Code 377A. Keep 377A for Singapore ...
Like · 1

WD:  @ LKM: I suggest you find yourself a good translation of the actual historic "Karma Sutra", not those cheap "1001 sex positions" knock-off of Karma Sutra. Failing which, I recommend that you ask Professor Google about the "history of asian homosexuality".
Find the FACTS before you shoot your mouth off.

LKM:  Okokok, but it's still keep 377A for me !!!

Like · 1

WD:  On the other hand, I am glad that LKM shot his mouth off. Because only then, we have a chance to feed him with FACTS that would challenge his (IMHO mis-)perception about homosexuality, homosexual rape, and history of asian homosexuality.
Whether he changes his opinion is well within his right to decide. Freedom of belief, so long as he does not discriminate against any of his students on the basis of their sexual orientation.
LKM:  I am capable of loving even homosexuals, it's the sexual act that I have problems with, which is EXACTLY what 377A is all about.

WD:  Do you eat sharks' fin soup? Some people find it disgusting, "repulsive", and against "proper order of nature", and so they are petitioning for it to be banned.
If every activity that someone or anyone in this world finds disgusting, "repulsive", or against "proper order of nature" gets banned, I think we may well end up everything also cannot do. Learn to live and let live. Remember the adage: One man's meat is another man's poison.
Like · 1
WD:  @ LKM: Thanks for the "Like" for my previous comment, but I suggest that you think about it before you "Like". Why do you insist on banning (i.e. by supporting 377A) private homosexual acts between 2 consenting adults in the privacy of their bedrooms if you truly agree to "live and let live"?

LKM:  377A affects the future of my children, I'm generally selfish about well being of my children and their children. Shark fin has less impact on my kids, hence my ability to better accommodate live and let live ...

WD:  Quote LKM: > "377A affects the future of my children, I'm generally selfish about well being of my children and their children."
Care to explain how/why 377A affects the future of your children? I presume you mean removing 377A affects their "well being" negatively, so I would appreciate if you would elaborate on how this may be so. 
Or is the above another of those "I will state my OPINION as a FACT, and then hope that I don't get outed for not distinguishing between FACTS and OPINIONS" statements from you?
JT: Allow me to defend LKM here. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion/beliefs/values n he's just simply stating tt on his FB wall. If do not agree, can always state own views on own wall. Y the need for all these aggressive comments? This is an issue that even if argue till cow comes home there also will be no end to it...

WD:  @ JT: I am afraid you're the one who is confused between a FB wall and the wall of a person's home.
May I remind everyone of Facebook's Terms of Use. 
In particular, points 6 and 7 under Safety.
6. You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.
7. You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence. 
Homophobic statements, like what LKM posted above, e.g. "If homosexual intercourse is legally permissible, I fear for our Army !!!!" is a form of hate speech.
And to use social media to share his homophobic views (which LKM admitted are not fact-based but "my [his] opinion purely mine [his]") can be a form of cyber-bullying.
WD:  If you don't know what "hate speech" is, here's a definition from wikipedia:
Hate speech is, outside the law, communication that vilifies a person or a group on the basis of one or more characteristics. Examples include but are not limited to: color, disability, ethnicity, gender, nationality, race, religion, and sexual orientation.

WD:  Please note that I am not a thought police. I have no interest in censoring LKM's resounding support for 377A. [Note: I did not comment on his other FB post drumming support for 377A.] (sic)
However, when LKM posted homophobic declarations, passing his OPINIONS off as FACTS (until otherwise challenged), and posting MISINFORMATION that constitutes hate speech, then I'm afraid he has crossed the line (as per Facebook's Terms of Use).
WD:  Let me borrow from the story of "The Emperor's new clothes" by Hans Christian Andersen.'s_New_Clothes
Which kind of friend are you? Which kind of friend would you rather have?
(a) the ministers: who let the emperor exhibit his folly for the world to see; who cannot see the clothing themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions; or
(b) the child: who calls a spade a spade, and blurts out the fact that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all.
One's critic is not necessary one's foe, and conversely one's supporter is not necessary one's friend. LKM, as a parent, should be well aware of which kind of friend he would prefer for himself and/or his children.
WD:  In the same way that LKM recognizes that it is only the homosexual sex acts "that I [he] find it repulsive", that he is "capable of loving even homosexuals"; it is only LKM's posting of bigotry statements on social media that I find repulsive, and I recognize that he has other positive attributes which he expresses, even on the same FB social media account.
When a person posts controversial statements on his/her FB wall, he/she should be well aware that it is not the same as painting those controversial statements on one's own home walls. The "social" nature of FB means that the person posting those statements jolly well be prepared to defend his/her stance and/or face complaints about his/her posting.
Now, as I have said earlier, I recognize there is positive value in some of LKM's other inspirational FB postings. As such, I do not believe nor wish for him to lose his entire FB account over his temporary lapse in judgement by posting hate speech on his FB wall. That said, his homophobic remarks can be a form of cyber-bullying. When good men/women remain silent in witnessing bullying, they are implicitly condoning the act of bullying and empowering the bully to continue his/her wayward behaviour.
I hope that I have made my stance clear.
LKM:  Now I feel so guilty having to know that I have contravened the use of FB's design intent .... but I still wish to use the last post I am capable of making in support of Penal Code 377A DON'T REPEAL IT !!!!

WD:  > "last post I am capable of making"
Aiyoh, no need to be so drama king lah. I am not a thought police nor a backstabber. I warned you so that you can cease and desist from making further hate speech. Of course, if you fail to do so, I reserve the right to lodge a complaint with Facebook.
So, go ahead and drum all the support you want to create for 377A. Just do it by sticking to the facts. 
Do not post PREJUDICIAL OPINIONS that could be construed as HATE SPEECH, otherwise you'd have contravened Facebook's Terms of Usage. If you care for your friends who share your support of 377A, you may want to explain to them about the fine line between supporting 377A and sprouting hate speech. Just my 2 cents.

[On another of LKM's (slightly earlier) Facebook posting, indicating his intent to promote his pro-377A stance.]

LKM: I make NO APOLOGIES to my friends. If you're offended by my PRO-Penal Code 377A stand, please simply remove me from your FaceBook friends list :)
Being a father of 5 children through natural birth, I cannot visualize same sex marriage as anything near legitimate relationship, and moreso, cannot understand any sane human would ever want to champion such a SICK course ?!!!
Like · 39
[Snipped off - 3 other comments supporting and adding to LKM's stance]

WD:  It is not about offence but contravention of FB's Terms of Usage, which you violated through posting "hate speech" in your other FB post which I have challenged. For details, please see my comments on your other FB post.
[Edit: Note that url to LKM's other FB post "If homosexual intercourse is legally permissible, I fear for our Army !!!!" (see above) is removed from display on this blog for privacy reasons.]
As a friend, it is my duty to tell you when you've crossed the line, so that you will not lose your ENTIRE FB ACCOUNT on the basis of a momentary lapse of judgement in your postings. 
As your friend, I make NO APOLOGIES for doing the right thing in pointing out when you've overstepped the line. Unless of course, you'd prefer that I report you to FB directly, behind your back?
LKM: ... and even at the risk of loosing my entire FB account, I wish to do so championing the keeping of Penal Code 377A for Singapore ...
Like · 2

WD:  @ LKM: As I mentioned in your other post, I am not a thought police. You can champion for support to keep Penal Code 377A for Singapore. Just do it by sticking to the facts.
Do not post PREJUDICIAL OPINIONS that could be construed as HATE SPEECH, otherwise you'd have contravened Facebook's Terms of Usage. If you care for your friends who share your support of 377A, you may want to explain to them about the fine line between supporting 377A and sprouting hate speech. Just my 2 cents.

Has my challenge/feedback to LKM worked? Well, it depends on what you mean by "worked". For now, LKM has stopped passing-off his homophobic opinions as facts. He is still drumming support for 377A, but he is now quoting online sources such as wikipedia's entry on Singapore's 377A.

Actually, LKM is rather similar to another 2 pro-PAP Singaporean guys that I know. [Click here and here for more.] All 3 are born-and-bred Singapore citizens. All 3 are born-again Christians. All 3 graduated from polytechnic around late-1980's or early-1990's. All 3 went on to professional/executive careers, thanking their god for their career success. All 3 are homophobic.

Now, I know that a lot of online bloggers and commenters (presumably male Singaporeans) like to put the blame of PAP's majority votes on those "ignorant Singaporean women who do not go through NS". Perhaps, just perhaps, these online bloggers/commenters would do well go knocking on some Christian doors. After all, for those conservative right-wing Christian households, their church would often teach that the wife and children must obey the husband (who represents Christ as the head of the household); and thus, if you manage to convince these homophobic Christian men to vote for alternative parties, you may actually win over 2 or more votes per man swayed.

p.s. Please do not ostracize our fellow Singaporean, right-wing Christian, PAP supporters. Some of them are really nice people when you know them personally (e.g. my friends LKM and X). IMHO, "engage and educate" is the best approach to win them over. After all, each individual is a complex multi-faceted combination of qualities, not just a cardboard cut-out of their religious and/or political affiliations.

"Suddenly, Last Winter"
Listen to what Luka said at 1:40 to 2:15 (replace "pope/bishop" with "pastor", replace "Italians" with "Singaporeans"... does it ring a bell?)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

In reply to TOC - Why many don't leave and some want to return

The following is my response to The Online Citizen article dated 15-Jan-2013, "Why many don't leave and some want to return" by Kungie.


Precisely my thoughts too. Below is my point-by-point "2 cents". Note: ">" precedes Kungie's words as extracted from the TOC article cited above.

> it is precisely all these taboos and conventions that bring about one of the greatest benefit of living in Singapore

What benefit is the closed conservative mindset of Singaporeans (and its social policies) if one is a liberal who do not fit/agree with those silly meaningless taboos and conventions? [Click here, herehere, here, here and here for examples]

> Even if your real self embodies none of the above-mentioned values, this framework of taboo and rules at least give you a very clear idea about how to bend the facts (and people's opinion about you).

So Kungie would rather have fake friends who see one through "shape-shifting mirrors of framework of taboos and rules", than real, mutually-trusting friendships based on open-communication and mutual acceptance. I am so sorry for Kungie's network of "friends".

> So many strongly enforced Singaporean beliefs seem to embody values that people wise up to after first trying out a life of chaos and misdirection... Our social policies, while sometimes draconian and elitist, are uncannily thought out and always hold firm like the grip of a strict father, never flickering back and forth due to public opinion like how sometimes Dutch social policies do.

Singaporean beliefs that people "wise up to"? Like what? Singaporeans' materialism? Speaking as a nurse who had served elderly patients -- my observation is that materialism does not buy one peace in facing mortality. IMHO, the sooner Singaporeans wise up to the false promises of Materialism, the better.

Social policies flickering back and forth in Kungie's view is a weakness, but in my view is the flexibility to be responsive to the ever-changing balance of societal demands. I would choose flexible/responsive public/social policies over draconian and elitist ones anytime.

> You always feel that someone has got your back in Singapore. 

While in Singapore, I have experience back-stabbing from some (born-and-bred) Singaporeans at school and at work; and in contrast, support from some foreign colleagues. It boils down to interpersonal interactions, nationality has nothing to do with it. Just look at my blog post below, under the section of "ugly Singaporean bosses".

> Those of us who moved to foreign countries, especially Western ones, would often feel that they are being let down by their foreign friends. ... your companions may not believe that making you feel included is also their responsibility.

"Those of us who moved to foreign countries, especially Western ones" -- so Kungie claims to be speaking on behalf of ALL Singaporeans who have moved to foreign, especially Western, countries. Errmm, can Kungie please count me out? 

As far as my experience go (and I have been in B.C., Canada for 2+ years -- a "Western" country), I have Canadian colleagues and even strangers who stood up for me when I encountered abuse/discrimination. [Note: There are idiots all over the world, and I assure you my encounters with idiots are rare here in B.C. compared to my previous work experience in Singapore.] Both Singaporean and non-Singaporean friends who extend an open invitation to crash at their home any day, anytime, especially if I miss the last train home due to working graveyard shifts. Both Canadian and immigrant friends who are always on a look-out for good deals for me (better rental, fun activities at budget prices, good food at value-for-money prices, job opportunities, etc) and make the effort to be socially inclusive. Fellow schoolmates who adopted me as part of their ethnic social group (even though I do not speak their ethnic language). As LIFT puts it, it is a give-and-take, It boils down to how much effort did you put in to reach out to and support your "foreign" friends.

> Only in Singapore can races and cultures somehow interweave and cross-pollinate without chaotic detonation

Has Kungie visited other highly diverse cities such as London and Vancouver? Does Kungie even hang out with non-Singaporeans in whatever Netherlands town/city he/she is in? I have friends (both Dutch and non-Dutch) in Netherlands, and they certainly are not as ethnocentric, mean-spirited and/or closed-minded Kungie makes them out to be. 

Kungie, Please be fair. If your experience sucks, please state clearly that you're sharing based on YOUR experience and those of other miserable Singaporeans who are unable/unwilling to integrate with the locals. 不要一竹干打翻一船人。 ["Do not tarnish everyone with a single brushstroke."] There are many other (ex-)Singaporeans who left the little red dot and are happily socially-integrated into their new homeland (including "Western" countries); some of whom blog about their experience. [Click here, here and here for examples.]

It sounds to me like Kungie is having difficulty fitting into Netherlands (his/her current country of residence); and is now looking at all "Western" countries with his/her jaded eyes, while looking back at Singapore through rose-tinted glasses.

In fact, Kungie's laments sound very similar to the lamentations of some PRCs whom I met in B.C., Canada. Those who arrive in Canada:
I am sorry for Kungie, his/her fellow Singaporean whiners, and the PRCs who share his/her attitude. IMHO, these folks aren't cut out for emigration, and are indeed better off returning to their respective country of origin.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Migrant Workers - Part 3

Before I start, please check out "Who chases workers up cranes?" by Yawning Bread on how the officers from the Singapore Ministry of Manpower handle complaints from 2 foreign migrant workers. Below are extracts from Yawning Bread's "Who chases workers up cranes?".
"The two men thought that not only were the deductions unjust, it was absurd that they had not been told of this before.
They went to MOM to lodge a complaint about the owed salaries, the unannounced deductions and the net effect of  negating their claims. The officer at MOM told them to bring documentary proof."
As Yawning Bread remarked, Acting Manpower Minister "Tan Chuan-Jin said in his Facebook post that “MOM requires documentation from workers in order to substantiate their claims”, but he seems ignorant of the power imbalance between low-wage  (especially migrant) workers, and employers."

Let us look at how a case of alleged illegal collection of employment fees is handled in Alberta, Canada. For more details of the case, please click here (Director of Fair Trading order) and here (Appeal Board decision) for documents from Service Alberta, Government of Alberta. [I suggest reading the Appeal Board document for the fuller story of investigations involved.]
Note: In Alberta, Canada, it is illegal for any business operator to seek any fee, reward or other compensation from a job applicant. [See "Legislation" section of the Director of Fair Trading order for details.]
Below is a brief of what happened according to the above Service Alberta, Government of Alberta documents.

1. Albera Ltd (a.k.a. Mabis Recruitment Agency) operates as an employment agency business by the sole director AC and the representative VV of the company.

2. Mabis recruited and arranged for temporary foreign workers (TFWs) to work as food counter attendants at a Tim Horton's franchise in Edmonton.

3. Mabis obtained the visas and airline tickets for the TFWs who, after arrival, worked in the said franchise. The franchise owner reimbursed Mabis the cost and quoted recruitment fees.

4. Some of the TFWs complained to Service Alberta that Mabis collected employment fees from them.
"A number of foreign workers filed complaints with Service Alberta that monies were paid to the Appellants, or their agents, in Korea or by electronic funds transfer to the Appellants [Mabis et al] in Edmonton. ... Service Alberta had opened 24 files based on separate complaints against the Appellants [Mabis et al] for receipt of funds contrary to the regulations of the Act which were not paid back to the Complainants." - extracted from Paragraph 17 of the Appeal Board decision.
"The Complainants who gave evidence were not sophisticated individuals. They came from overseas to work in Canada for minimum wage, a good portion of which is sent back to their families in the Philippines. The monies that had been charged varied from $700 to over $5,000, with most being in the $1,5000 to $3,000 range. This equates to a significant sum of money for these individuals who are faced with the rules, regulations and processes of a foreign country (Canada), all of which would be daunting to anyone unless they felt strongly about their situation. The Complainants giving evidence at the appeal hearing also indicated that, while they thought that the payments made to the Appellants were payments of fees for getting a job in Canada at the time, they were prepared to make those payments to get employment in Canada. It was only after they learned that those payments were illegal under the Act, that they filed the complaint against the Appellants." - extracted from Paragraph 18 of the Appeal Board decision with emphasis added by WD.
5. The complaint resulted in investigations by Service Alberta leading to the Director of Fair Trading order to Alberta Ltd (a.k.a. Mabis Recruitment Agency), AC and VV to
"immediately stop demanding or indirectly demanding or collecting a fee, reward or other compensation from a person who is seeking employment, or for securing or endeavouring to secure employment for the person." - extracted from the Director of Fair Trading order.
6. Mabis and its operators appealed against the Director of Fair Trading order.

7. As common with such dispute cases, there are situations of "your word against mine". The Appeal Board investigators report supported the TFWs claims as follow [extracted from Paragraph 19 of the Appeal Board decision with emphasis added by WD].
"a. Lawyer for the Appellants indicated that the Complainants conspired to cause problems for the Appellants yet the large number of complaints (47), most of which are still overseas, does not support this conspiracy theory."
"b. The documents that were signed by the Complainants, indicating that they were given their money back in cash, was acknowledged to be signed by the Complainants, however, the Appeal Board accepts their explanation that they feared that if they did not sign the document, they would not get employment in Canada."
"c. The Appellants indicated that they had no agents overseas, yet, the investigator's report indicates that there are emails that seem to contradict that."
8. There was also attacks on the (Complainants) TFWs credibility of giving evidence under oath because 2 of them had produced "resumes that contained inaccurate representations of work experience". "The Appeal Board finds that the puffery that the Complainants acknowledged in their resumes could not be equated to the evidence that they gave at the hearing under oath and accepts the Complainants explanation as truthful." -- extracted from Paragraph 20 of the Appeal Board decision.

9. Paragraph 22 of the Appeal Board decision with emphasis added by WD.
"When taking all of the evidence into consideration, the Appeal Board viewed the arrangement as being in the control of the Appellants. The Appellants could easily have avoided this controversy by opening a trust account with a chartered bank and having all money pass through that account with the use of cheques or traceable money orders, but they chose not to. The Complainants did get some benefit in coming to Canada, but they are not becoming wealthy by doing the work they do. On the other hand, the Appellants would seem to be benefiting much more and on the balance of probabilities, the evidence of the Complainants is preferred."
10. The Appeal Board ordered witness fees to be paid to the complainant witnesses (TFWs).


If you read stories from H.O.M.E., TWC2, and foreign labour related entries from Yawning Bread [click here or here for examples] or TheOnlineCitizen, you would know that unscrupulous agents and/or employers exploiting the ignorance and imbalance-in-power of temporary foreign workers to make money off their backs exist in Singapore.

You will also note the huge differences in the handling of complaints from temporary foreign workers (TFWs). For example:
IMHO, Singapore should hang its head in shame given its claims of a wealthier government and more efficient bureaucracy. Especially in this case, where instead of enforcing the Ministry of Manpower's "Labour Court" ruling that was in favour of the TFW, its officer recalled the TFW to the MOM office to subject him to another round of interrogation.

Some may say, it is easy in the above Canadian example for action to be taken against a small-to-medium-sized private business. Now, what if the party involved is a large and/or government-linked organization (e.g. SMRT Corp)? We shall see in the next instalment (part 4).

[Note: Click for the previous part 1 and part 2 of this "Migrant Workers" series.]


I would just like to add a few postscript notes for people who may be seeking employment in Canada.

1. Do not trust someone on the basis of him/her being your own countrymen
I happened to know a bit of information about the couple involved in the Canadian case above. AC is the husband of VV. AC originated from Singapore (born-and-bred Singaporean) and VV originated from The Philippines, before they migrated to Canada together. The main group of TFWs that they collected fees from were Filipinos. [Yeah, VV's fellow countrymen.] 
Let's just say that I had been proposition by some Singaporeans (based in Canada or elsewhere) with various schemes/plans when I sought to build a network of contacts during the period of my transition to Canada. Be careful of people giving you free business or investment advice/suggestions. Analyze things carefully and independently, or the freebies may end-up costing you more than you realize. I am glad that I took the conservative path and avoided committing on any major business or financial directions/transactions until I gathered independent sources of data/information.
2. Use of look-alike or sound-alike names to piggyback on famous brands
Some Filipinos reading this would recognize "Mabis" as a well-known and reputable Filipino recruitment agency. But the Mabis Recruitment Agency (a.k.a. Alberta Ltd) is totally unrelated to the well-known MAB Int'l. Services Inc. (MABIS). Too many people have a tendency not to "read the fine print" and rely on their own inferred association rather than checking the reality. Sometimes such association is harmless, but other times (as shown in the case above) it may cost them heavily.
There are also similar brand rip-offs in Singapore. Sometimes the rip-off may just be that of piggyback on a famous name association without the malicious intent. Nevertheless, it may confuse people who rely on their own inferred association rather than checking the reality. E.g. My friend LC (who was born in Hong Kong, graduated from Ireland and worked in London before relocating to Singapore with his British wife) actually thought that sending his sons to Eton House in Singapore would be akin to sending them to famous Eton College in U.K. where Prince William studied. Even after I told him that they are not related, he still liked the sound of his sons having attended "Eton". Fortunately, it so happened that LC and his family left the little red dot before his sons reached school age.
Canada's immigration and visa regulations are transparent and accessible online. If you plan to work in Canada, please check the facts out for yourself from the Canada Immigration and Citizenship website instead of relying on hearsay. It takes some effort on your part, but it may save you lots of potential heartache.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Migrant Workers - Part 2

As mentioned in my previous blog post (Migrant Workers - Part 1), Canada's 0.9% of temporary foreign workers with respect to its population is significantly lower than Singapore's 23.8% (or 18.0% Work Permit holders). 

Despite the relatively low levels of temporary foreign labour in Canada, rules stipulating the terms and conditions of such employment are very tight. Let us take a look at the live-in caregivers (a.k.a. domestic maids in Singaporean lingo) for example. 



Canada has very strict and detailed rules regulating the employment of live-in caregivers (a.k.a. domestic maids). [Click here or here for more.] In fact, every potential maid employer needs to submit an application to the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) to justify his/her need for a maid. [And I personally know of a case where the potential maid employer's application was rejected.] 

Thereafter, the "HRSDC/Service Canada officers assess the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) application and all mandatory accompanying documentation and the employment Contract." Yes, the employment contract prior to employment is mandatory. Click here for the template to see the level of details on the terms and conditions of employment. E.g. Place of work, number of rooms and bedrooms, household members, specific person requiring care - i.e. child, elderly, disabled person in the household, work-hours per day, daily work schedule, number and duration of paid/unpaid meal/health breaks, days-off per week on which days of week, paid annual vacation, sick leave, statutory/public holidays, wage, payment frequency, overtime agreement, accommodation standards, maximum accommodation charges/deductions allowed, transportation costs borne by employer, healthcare insurance borne by employer, workplace safety insurance borne by employer, notice for termination. To quote the HRSDC rules regarding wages.
"Employers must offer wages that are equal or higher than those offered to Canadian live-in caregivers in their region. This requirement was put in place to make sure that:
  • It is not more attractive for an employer to hire a foreign worker than a Canadian worker;
  • The entry of foreign workers does not put downward pressure on Canadian wages;
  • The foreign workers are compensated in an equitable and adequate manner for their work in Canada." 
[Note: Compare the above to Singapore's "NTUC says 'no' to equal pay for all nationalities'Same job-equal pay' rule will put local workers and families at a disadvantage".]
Given the tight regulation, Canadians generally do not have an issue with the presence of foreign live-in caregivers. The issue in Canada is that despite all the rules regulating the employment of live-in caregivers in Canada, cases of labour exploitation do surface every now and then. [Click here and here, or see Appendix A below.] Such cases are proactively investigated by the Canadian mainstream media. E.g. 12-Oct-2011, CBC News "VIDEO: Abuse of caregivers no surprise to advocates" -- "Advocates are outraged but not surprised to hear about live-in caregivers treated like slaves in B.C.", reports the CBC's Natalie Clancy. Oh yes, at 1:55 of the video, the reporter probed the Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenny on how he intends to deal with the issue of exploitation of live-in caregivers, and IMHO, he didn't look too happy to have to answer such questions but he answered them anyway.



In Singapore, employment of temporary foreign workers are covered under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act which mainly to deal with the handling of Employment Pass, S-Pass and/or Work Permit and the general Employment Act. However, domestic maids are specifically excluded from coverage under the Employment Act and the Workmen's Compensation Act. Thus, they are left to the mercy of the agent and their employer because "Ministry of Manpower (MOM) encourages employers and their FDWs to enter into a written employment contract" -- quote MOM on Work Permit (Foreign Domestic Worker). "Encourages", in short, no black-and-white is mandatory.

You can read here on what UNHCR Human Rights Watch has to say about the situation of domestic workers abuse in Singapore (dated 07-Dec-2005). Even giving the domestic workers a weekly day off required much advocacy by NGOs (Non-government Organizations) before the government would finally grant domestic workers a weekly rest day -- albeit one that "falls short of international standards, Human Rights Watch said".



I would like to highlight certain points worth thinking about when comparing the live-in caregiver (foreign domestic worker) situations in Canada and Singapore.

1. Employment Contract.
In Canada, the employment contract is compulsory and the terms and conditions for employment are part and parcel of the decision whether to approve a family's application to employ a live-in caregiver.  
In Singapore, MOM decides not to dirty its hands over making an employment contract compulsory because "It is not practical to regulate specific aspects of domestic work, i.e. hours of work, work on a rest day and on public holidays". IMHO, it means that some bureaucrats with iron rice bowls decided that requiring a contract to protect a vulnerable segment of employees (208,400 of them as of Jun-2012) is not important enough to be worth their efforts. I guess it's easy for these bureaucrats to decide so -- these 208,400 lives are not their mothers, wives, sisters or daughters. Maybe, if Lee Kuan Yew's words ["Your security will be at risk and our women will become maids in other people's countries"] come true someday, maybe then these bureaucrats will wake up to recognize that being a maid does not make one any less of a human -- any less deserving of being treated with human dignity.
2. Role of media
In Canada, you see the mainstream media doing investigative journalism proactively. Even to the extend of probing the ministers with difficult questions
In Singapore, when you read/hear about a maid being abused in the mainstream media, it is often in the context of a court case being reported. Investigative journalism? Perhaps that is the domain of activists or NGOs. [Click here and here for example.]
3. Singaporean's attitude towards FDW
The following factors combined:
  • the lack of discussion of issues faced by foreign domestic workers in the mainstream media,  
  • the potential language/cultural barrier between the foreign domestic workers and their employers;
IMHO, have a side effect where Singaporeans tend "objectify" their FDW and forget that they are dealing with human beings -- real-life flesh-and-blood with human vulnerabilities, feelings, needs and wants, not some robotic automaton. Remember the kind of objections Singaporeans put up against allowing their maids to have a weekly day off?
We can conclude from the above that in live-in caregivers (a.k.a. foreign domestic workers) are more vulnerable in Singapore than in Canada.



Why is it that despite the tight regulation of live-in caregivers and the more favourable environment in Canada, there are still cases of exploitation? Is it true after all -- what the Singapore MOM says about the difficulty of regulating domestic work? 

This is where we delve into the darker side of human nature. Those who have read William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" would understand. If that's fiction, then consider the real life "Stanford prison experiment". Even artificially-created temporary situation of imbalance of power has the potential to encourage abusive behaviours. Live-in caregivers (a.k.a. domestic maids) are in effect "imprisoned" in their work location, except for their days off. In fact, the CBC video highlighted (at 1:37) that the "live-in requirement" is what's turning foreign workers into slaves.
[Aside: In the CBC video, Krystle Alarcon from the Philippine Women Centre suggested (at 1:45) that the need for live-in caregivers is a failure of the Canadian/provincial governments to provide the necessary support services for children, elderly and the disabled.]
If a simple employment situation can turn for the worse for the live-in caregivers in Canada, then what of the probability of abuse for the foreign domestic workers in Singapore? Remember we concluded above that the live-in caregivers (a.k.a. foreign domestic workers) are more vulnerable in Singapore than in Canada. 
Note: IMHO, a mandatory weekly day-off allows maids to escape from their workplace location. If abuse is suspected/alleged, it gives the maids' friends or the maid herself a chance to seek help. However, only the FDWs whose Singapore work permit are issued or renewed from 1st January 2013 will be given a weekly rest day or compensation in lieu. That means that it may be a couple of years before all maids in Singapore get their well-deserved weekly day-off. In addition, IMHO, in allowing the option of a "compensation in lieu" of the mandatory day-off, detection of abuse is more likely to be delayed if the employer pressurizes the maid to accept "prolonged imprisonment" in exchange for compensation at the beginning of the contract (before the employer launches into abusive behaviour).
The next logical question to follow is, is there any recourse for maids who are exploited?
  • In Canada, the mandatory detailed Employment Contract between the live-in caregiver and the employer is a starting point. Beyond that, HRSDC rules governing the employment of live-in caregivers would apply, followed by general employment, health and workplace safety rules applicable to all employees in Canada.
  • In Singapore, domestic workers are specifically excluded from the protection of the Employment Act and the Workmen's Compensation Act. Only when there is evidence of bodily harm inflicted on the maids can the abusive employer be charged under criminal laws handled by the Attorney-General's Chamber (AGC). [Note: The AGC handles criminal cases; seeking recourse for the abused maid is not its objective.]
What about other situations of alleged exploitation and/or discrimination? Many a times, such cases are situations of "he says vs she says" when they reach the judiciary. In the next 2 instalments (part 3 and part 4) we shall look at how things pan out in Canada from examples of the following situations.

APPENDIX A - The Vancouver Observer, "Canada's Modern-day Slaves"

Canada's Modern-day Slaves
[Extracted from The Vancouver Observer]
By Krystle Alarcon, Posted: Nov 9th, 2012

Jane Macaraeg, a quiet former honour student in her late 20s, was raised by maids in the Philippines and never thought she would tend to children herself one day.

She tore her wrist tendons when she pulled out a child from behind a deep freezer while on contract as a nanny for a BC household. Instead of being thanked for saving the child from injury while hurting herself, her employer reprimanded her.

"She told me I should've just left him there," Macaraeg said. "I thought: 'If he electrocuted himself, she would have blamed me even more'."

Macaraeg is one of thousands of nannies who have to jump through hoops before gaining a shot at the ultimate prize—a new life in Canada. 

She was recruited though the Live-in Caregiver Program, a stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) designed to fill labour shortages in Canada. A recently released report by labour lawyer Fay Faraday in Ontario revealed that the legal structure of the TFWP sets up migrant workers for abuse.

Faraday recognizes that only live-in caregivers in the low-skilled category of the TFWP have access to permanent residency in Canada, a perk that makes it seem like they’re better off. 

But caregivers are also prone to abuse just like all other migrant workers, she argues, as they are also tied to their employer and thus cannot change jobs if mistreated. 

A report by the Toronto Star noted that several caregivers complained of “being forced to work 12 to 15 hour days without overtime, days off or even minimum wage”. 

Even if they do get minimum wage, they answer to their employers’ beck and call 24 hours a day, as they are forced to live with them. They are only paid for eight hours worth of work. Considering the only recently-augmented minimum wage of BC at $10.25, that amounts to $4.64 per hour including taxes and rest time. 

Ai Li Lim, who represents nannies in legal battles with the West Coast Domestic Workers Association, said, most caregivers and employers do not keep track of the overtime. Still, the live-in requirement creates a power relationship that’s hard to avoid. “Would a caregiver be able to say that she is not going to pick up the crying baby at 3 a.m. in the morning because it is personal time?” 

The caregivers are also forced to pay for their own boarding with their meagre salaries. In BC, employers are allowed to charge up to $325 for the room.

In other provinces, they are better off. In Quebec, it's free. In Ontario, the pay deduction for rent cannot exceed $85.25, according to Farraday’s report. 

For employers, the Live-in Caregiver Program is much more affordable than a daycare program—even middle-class families can benefit from it. A live-in nanny costs around $1200 to $1600 per month while daycare in BC can cost up to $1500.

Farraday’s 120-page paper, entitled “Made In Canada: How the Law Constructs Migrant Workers’ Insecurity”, looked particularly at low-skilled workers’ conditions. She interviewed about a hundred migrant workers from four streams: the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, the Live-in Caregiver Program and two categories of the Pilot Project for Occupations Requiring Lower Levels of Formal Training, through which migrant workers become “permanently temporary”, Farraday said. 

Live-in caregivers at risk 

She pointed out that the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) is “highly gendered and racialized” compared to the other streams—up to 95 per cent of caregivers are women from the Philippines. 

In fact, out of 39,120 caregivers recruited to the LCP in Canada in 2009, 35,290 were from the Philippines, representing 90 per cent. But Farraday noted that Filipina caregivers come from all over the world and that not all directly travel from the Philippines to Canada.

“They are here on time-limited permits, which can actually be quite lengthy,” she said. The caregivers’ contracts stipulate that they fulfill 24 months or 3,900 hours of work in the span of four years to apply for residency—after which they can sponsor their families to join them in Canada.

The processing time to get their permanent status takes up to two years, which means caregivers are separated from their own children for an average of seven years.

Lim said that live-in caregivers are uniquely vulnerable because of that glimmering promise of permanent residency in Canada. 

“(The women) are unwilling or unable to sometimes seek recourse because they feel that if they do so, they would be jeopardizing their immigration status,” she said. 

That was precisely why Ria and Jane Macaraeg put up with unpaid overtime, fulfilled tasks beyond their contract and suffered physical and emotional pain from the job. They are a Vancouver-based mother and daughter duo whose names have been changed to protect them against retribution from their employers. 

“I’m taking care of two kids, but they want the house to be tidy and clean, as if there’s no kid at all. I feel like a slave… I’m doing everything,” Ria, the mother, said.

“Everything” means cooking, doing laundry, washing cars and trimming lawns—household chores that are not included in nannies' contracts. 

Ria actually made a list of all the overtime work, hoping that her employers would pay for it. 

They never did. And she’ll never get it back. The Employment Standards Act of Canada allows workers to collect only the last six months worth of back pay.

The live-in requirement creates an ongoing sense of obligation and reinforces the entitlement of the employer to do as they please.  

“It is the whole privacy of the home thing, where people don’t think about the Employment Standards Branch breaking into a private home to see what’s going on in there,” Lim said.

After almost six years in the Live-in Caregiver Program, Ria learned to toughen up. 

“Just try not to let them enslave you too much. If they take advantage of you, answer back at least,” she said. 

She’s still on the waiting list to get her permanent residency, even if she completed her contract two years ago. Ria believes that single women with no children tend to get status faster because her daughter, who came two years later than her, already has her residency.

Her daughter, Jane, didn't want to follow in her mother’s footsteps by jumping from employer to employer. She stuck it out with her first and only employer for 24 straight months. Ria, meanwhile, had switched employers three times so her contract was reset, meaning that some of the time she worked was not accounted for. 

But Jane stuck it out—even when her work was not compensated at all. "Everytime she travelled for her summer and Christmas vacations, I didn't get paid," she said. "For two years I put up with that."

She lamented about the permanent tendinitis she developed on her wrist the day she pulled out the eldest from behind a freezer while she was taking care of his sibling, a baby and their friends on top of that. When the employer found out, she said Jane should have left him there.

“She twisted her wrist!” Ria said, wide-eyed and flustered. “And then the employer got mad at her, she said my daughter should have just left her son there. Well, that’s fine with her because she’s the mother. But we’re the nanny…what if something happened?” she said. 

Tendinitis was the least of Ria’s injuries. Over the course of her contracts, she developed gallstones, plantar fasciitis and carpal tunnel which she thinks she got from all the stressful situations—which she described as both physical and emotional—because she tended to the needs of other people’s kids while she was unable to see her own. 

They elbow each other and laugh off the pain together as Ria goes through her slew of injuries. “It’s bittersweet,” she said chuckling, “because as I suffer here, at least I can put my kids through school in the Philippines.” 

Overqualified nannies 

A former teacher with a bachelor’s degree in Food and Science nutrition, Macaraeg speaks uncomfortably in English—a skill she said she lost because of the isolated work in her employers’ homes, which is  ironic considering she moved to Canada. 

She’s not the only caregiver who lost her skills through the Live-in Caregiver Program—one study found that 63 per cent of LCP applicants held a bachelors degree or higher. Under their temporary permits, migrant workers are not allowed to pursue any form of education.

Despite all the troubles, Ria is a willing caregiver who does it “out of heart".

She just wishes she got paid more. She recently looked after a hyperactive child while replacing her friend for an appointment. She described him as a “worm”, the type who “never sits down”.

“I almost died. Those two hours were like two weeks. I said, ‘How do you put up with that?’ And we get paid minimum wage.

“It’s not because of the workload that you stop. It’s eight dollars an hour. Now it’s $10.25. That’s still not enough. I have so many bills…so many bills in the Philippines and here,” she said.

In her 2009 report, independent researcher and activist Salimah who completed her doctoral studies on Filipina women who migrate to Canada said caregivers are more prone to reprisal because their status and future depend on their employers. She cited incidents of verbal, physical and sexual abuse, unlivable housing conditions and the confiscation of important documents such as passports, good referral letters or records of employment (ROE).  

An employer Ria worked for in Langley for three years refused to give her her ROE and a good referral after because she left on short notice when they did not pay her for overtime work. Ria needs the ROE so she can obtain an open work permit—which will allow her to work in other industries since she has completed her LCP contract.

Farraday said low-wage workers in general tend not to complain to the authorities over employment violations until after they quit and find work elsewhere. Adding temporary status to their conditions makes them even more docile.

“If they complain about their working conditions or their living conditions, they risk not only losing their jobs but also becoming homeless,” she said. 

Another concern for Faraday for all migrant workers entering through the low-skilled categories is that their work permits tie them to a specific employer for the duration of their contract, an aspect that debilitates workers’ mobility. She recommends that work permits be designated to an industry or a province.

Valiani describes the promise for permanent residency at the end of a caregivers’ contract as a “carrot and stick” situation – and it is not always guaranteed. Valiani found that barely half—only 53 per cent—of caregivers actually gain residency, considering retention rates between 2003 to 2007.

Ultimately, Farraday does not agree with temporary labour as a solution to Canada’s shortage of workers—that workers should be coming to Canada as permanent residents upon arrival. 

“Temporary migration must not be permitted to facilitate, institutionalize and normalize a second-tier, low-wage/low-rights “guest worker” program, and Canada’s dependence on temporary migration must be reversed,” she stated in the report. 

“This is not just a case of one bad apple here, one bad apple there,” Faraday said. 

“It’s important to recognize that these horror stories would keep coming forward because we’ve created a system that leaves the workers open to exploitation.”