Modern Slavery

September 23rd, 2015 by

By Victoria Yang

We would like to think that slavery is a relic of the past, especially in Canada, and that we have respectable standards today. But is slavery really behind us? And are standards just an option that employers can choose to either adopt or ignore?

In PN v FR, the complainant was a Filipino nanny who worked in Vancouver for approximately six weeks daily from 5:30am to 11:00pm and received a total of $454.76. Throughout the course of her employment she had to endure physical abuse, consistent sexual harassment, and constant verbal abuse.

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal found the complainant to be a “virtual slave”. She was not allowed to sit during the day otherwise deductions would be made from her already measly wages. Her passport was confiscated upon arrival in Vancouver. She slept on a couch that can be seen from both bedrooms, and had absolutely no privacy. She was forbidden to talk to others. Her food was portioned and managed closely. She was forced to commit sexual acts multiple times a week.

The complainant argued that the respondents had discriminated against her contrary to section 13 of the BC Human Rights Code. As set out in Moore v British Columbia, to establish a prima facie case of discrimination complainants must demonstrate:

  1. They have a characteristic protected from discrimination;
  2. They have experienced an adverse impact; and
  3. The protected characteristic was a factor in the adverse impact.

As a young mother from the Philippines, the Tribunal found that the complainant possessed many protected characteristics including her age, sex, family status, colour, ancestry, and place of origin.

For instance, case law has established that sexual harassment, or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that detrimentally affects the work environment, amounts to discrimination on the basis of sex. Needless to say, this had serious repercussions on the complainant’s sense of dignity and self-worth.

What happened to the complainant? The complainant commenced this litigation after escaping the hotel at which she and the respondents were living when she had an opportunity to take out the garbage. After escape, she continued to experience threats and enticements to return to the respondents. She had to rely on the generosity of strangers to feed and clothe herself and live at shelters, as she was unable to work elsewhere or obtain benefits in Canada. Her application for a Temporary Residence Permit was denied according to Lancaster House and she is faced with lawsuits from the Respondents in Hong Kong.

For more information or any other questions regarding human rights and any other employment/labour law matters, please contact Marty Rabinovitch.

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