By Mila Astorga-Garcia
The Philippine Reporter
TORONTO - The murder of live-in caregiver Jocelyn Dulnuan and the subsequent community efforts to seek justice for her death have triggered a broader campaign for reforms in Canada 's live-in-caregivers program.
Proposed changes in the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) and the implementation of the Employment Standards Act (ESA) in workplaces of caregivers were brought to the attention of the federal and provincial levels of government and have generated positive response from legislators, both federal and provincial, as well as a number of political party leaders.
Dulnuan, a 27-year old live-in caregiver, was found dead Oct. 1 in the mansion of her employers in Mississauga . Her body, found to have multiple stab wounds and bruises, had been brought to her home town in Ifugao , Philippines , on Oct. 16.
A meeting with Peggy Nash, MP, and Cheri DiNovo, MPP, and representatives of the Jocelyn Dulnuan Support Committee (JDSC) last Sunday (Oct. 28), resulted in a commitment of support for policy and legislative changes to improve the working conditions of live-in-caregivers.
As an initial step, a move to call for sending labour inspectors to live-in caregivers' workplaces (which are their employers' homes) is under discussion to check whether the requirements of the LCP and the ESA are being met by employers.
Reports have been published over the years that live-in caregivers are being made to work way past their working hours, sometimes up to 12 hours without overtime pay and their working and living conditions are sub-standard.
The campaign for justice for Dulnuan was also brought to the attention of Liberal Leader Stephane Dion during his meeting in Toronto with the officers and members of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, an organization of over 250 media organizations in Canada . Dion stated that he was aware of some of the problems experienced by live-in-caregivers, such as the long hours of work without overtime pay, and other labour problems. He stated during the meeting that he would seriously study advocacy positions towards reforming federal immigration legislation governing the live-in-caregivers program that would be presented to him by the community in connection with the present campaign.
A press conference will be held on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2007, 3:30 p.m. at the OPSEU building on 31 Wellesley St. East , to announce the latest developments in the campaign to seek justice for Jocelyn Dunluan and to improve the well-being of live-in-caregivers in Canada .
The press conference will be participated in by JDSC members that include Dulnuan's relatives, a live-in-caregiver, and representatives of three coalitions in the Filipino community that were part of the campaign from the start: the Community Alliance for Social Justice, Migrante-Ontario, and the Philippine Independence Day Council. Nash and DiNovo will also be present at the press conference to articulate their role in the proposed legislative changes.
Ecumenical memorial service
The press conference will precede the ecumenical memorial mass “A Day of Remembrance” for Dulnuan and other caregivers who have died, on Sunday, Nov. 4, 4 to 6 p.m. at the OPSEU building, to be jointly officiated by Fr. Ariel Dumaran and representatives of other faiths. (See page10 for details.)
The event falls a little over a month after Dulnuan's death. It is the second memorial service held to commemorate the memory of a wife and mother who, despite her university degree in criminology, had to work as a live-in-caregiver thousands of miles away from her family to be able to support them. The first event held on Oct. 14, “Light a Candle for Jocelyn,” was attended by about two hundred that included live-in-caregivers who paid their respects to one of their own.
Other campaign initiatives are being pursued by the Jocelyn Dulnuan Support Committee (JDSC), whose two mains objectives are (1) to seek justice for Jocelyn, and (2) to promote the welfare of live-in-caregivers in Canada .
LCP migrants events
Live-in-caregivers and migrant groups have come up with their own initiatives to highlight the need to work with community on their various concerns, among them, the need to reform the program to eliminate imposed requirements that make them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
Migrante-Ontario, an alliance of migrant organizations in Ontario and a leading member organization of the JDSC, will hold its official launching convention on Nov. 4, from 12 to 3 p.m. at OPSEU. The event is open to all migrant workers and community members who support their efforts to uplift the conditions of migrant workers and their families.
Migrante Ontario is the local chapter of Migrante International, a worldwide alliance of migrant workers organized to protect their rights and promote their well-being and those of their families. It was Migrante Hong Kong that first established contact with Jocelyn's Hong Kong-based mother, who is also a live-in-caregiver, when news about Jocelyn's murder filtered to its network. Migrante Philippines facilitated liaison and assistance to the Dulnuan family before and after Jocelyn's body was brought home to Manila , then to Hingyon,Ifugao. Migrante maintains a philosophy that migrant workers have to depend on themselves so that their rights are protected and their welfare served as proven in many cases of migrant workers abuse cases in other parts of the world.
AWARE-Gabay, an organization of live-in-caregivers both within and outside the program and those who have already become immigrants and Canadian citizens, held their well-attended reunion last Saturday, Oct. 20 at the Wellesley Community Centre. The event included a launching of the book, “Leap Into the Unknown” by Florchita Bautista, a former nun and live-in-caregiver, who was a key organizer of AWARE-Gabay. The organization is also an active member of the JDSC and supporting changes in the working and living conditions of caregivers.
JDSC, Congen, police liaison
A liaison between the JDSC and the Philippine Consulate General-Toronto and the Peel Police is already in place, to facilitate information regarding any latest development on the case which remains under investigation a month after Dulnuan's murder.
Dulnuan's body is already in Hingyon, Ifugao province in the Philippines where her family lives, after having been shipped with the financial assistance of the Ontario government's victims services office and the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, through the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto .
The community's own fund-raising campaign, under the Jocelyn Dulnuan Support Committee, has generated over $29,000 in total funds, as of press time. (See Fund Rasing Report on page 38.) The funds are intended to help support the slain caregiver's family, including her four-year old daughter in the Philippines .
A detailed accounting of this fund, coming from contributions from organizations and individuals that had started pouring in from the time the first press conference was held last Oct. 6, 2007 at Patricia Kemp Community centre, was released to The Philippine Reporter by Imie Belanger and Fay Hangdaan, two of Dulnuan's relatives in Toronto and members of the JDSC. More donations are coming in, and the fund's latest status will regularly be reported to this paper and other publications, according to both Belanger and Hangdaan.
Liaison with Philippine government
Meanwhile, a JDSC delegation led by Jun Enverga, president of the Philipine Independence Day Council (PIDC); and Mila Astorga-Garcia, Research Director of the Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ) have sought a schedule for a dialogue between the Philippine Consulate General Alejandro Mosquera and the JDSC on matters relating to Philippine government support to live-in-caregivers in Canada. Consul General Mosquera has indicated his availability on this matter on the week of November 5.
Efforts are also being made to invite Philippine Ambassador Jose Brillantes for a dialogue with the JDSC and other community organizations on matters affecting Filipino caregivers in Canada .
Brillantes had announced in Toronto earlier this year that a third pillar of the Philippine foreign policy is the protection of overseas foreign workers (OFWs).
The Community Alliance for Social Justice has long articulated its position for basic changes in Canada 's Live-in Caregiver Program by making representations to the federal government.
These proposed changes include the removal of the live-in requirement that breeds conditions for the abuse and exploitation of caregivers by employers; causes isolation for caregivers; and raises concerns for the health and safety of caregivers in their living and working environment.
Another is the years of separation from spouses and children that has resulted in various social problems and the breaking of family relationships. CASJ is campaigning that qualified and skilled caregivers and their families be allowed to enter Canada as permanent residents.
Another is the inability of caregivers to access federally and provincially mandated social services, such as social housing, regular health care, and others.
CASJ also wants Canada to sign the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights and Welfare of Migrant Workers and their Families, which provides the international standard and framework to protect migrant workers' rights.
JDSC's growing membership
The various initiatives were organized by different committees formed within the JDSC, which now counts among its members and supporters an increasing number of major Filipino-Canadian coalitions, regional associations, migrant workers organizations, Filipino com munity centres, organizations within the Canadian labour sector, media organizations, and concerned individuals in the Filipino, other ethnic and mainstream communities, and government officials.
At present the JDSC is composed of the following member organizations that have indicated a commitment to pursue the campaign for justice and for the rights and welfare of live-in-caregivers in Canada :
MIGRANTE-Ontario, Philippine Independence Day Council (PIDC), Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ), Ifugao Association of Canada, BIBAK, Filipino-Canadian Association of Vaughan, Markham Federation of Filipino Canadians (MFFC), Fr. Ariel Dumaran (San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish), Asociacion Negrense, AWARE/Gabay, Philippine Advocacy Through Arts-Canada (PATAC), DAMAYAN Migrant Education and Resource Center, Philippine Network for Justice and Peace, Philippine Press Club of Ontario, Santaguinian Association of Ontario, Siklab-Ontario, UKPC-Toronto, United Filipinos for Nationalism and Democracy and Kababayan Community Centre.