Abuse shouldn’t be “all in a day’s work” for domestic workers, but too often is

Every year, thousands of migrants arrive in Canada from all over the world in search of a better life. Many of these migrants succeed in finding a level of comfort and security that they were not able to find in their homelands. But for some, the pursuit of the Canadian dream turns into a nightmare.

That is what is being alleged by Magdalene Gordo and Richelyn Tongson, who were hired in 2008 as live-in domestic workers for the Dhalla family of Mississauga, Ont. According to Gordo and Tongson, they were paid $250 per week for workdays of up to 16 hours, and they had their passports seized by their employers.

What has made the case well-known is the fact that a member of the Dhalla family happens to be a Member of Parliament — Ontario Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla.

Any accusations against the Dhalla family have yet to be proven in a court of law.

However, the publicity surrounding the case should be used to turn a spotlight on the well-being of domestic workers throughout Canada — a group of workers who are often dependent on their employers for almost every aspect of their well-being, and whose treatment is difficult to monitor without invading the privacy of the employer’s home.

Those who have left their employers often have terrible stories to tell. A survey of 755 former domestic workers conducted in the ’90s by Kalayaan and the Commission for Filipino Migrant Workers found that:

  • 90 percent had been denied time off or holidays
  • 88 percent had been threatened, insulted or shouted at
  • 62 percent had had their passports taken away from them
  • 55 percent had had wages withheld
  • 38 percent had been assaulted or physically abused
  • 35 percent were subjected to house detention
  • 17 percent had routinely worked 16 to 20-hour days
  • 11 percent had been sexually assaulted

Their average monthly wage: the equivalent of $162.75 U.S.

Job satisfaction is a critical component of life satisfaction: it’s hard to have a good life overall when your work life is the pits. It’s even worse for someone who is in a position of dependency and left without options for dealing with the causes of their misery.

It may well be time to start doing outreach to domestic workers — such as a multilingual campaign through ethnic media to inform domestic workers of their rights. And to provide those who are abused or who witness abuses with the means by which to report these abuses anonymously for investigation.

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About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

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