The "Centre Block" of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. The government has imposed restrictions on some nation's diplomatic staff due to concerns over exploitation of domestic help hired from abroad.
Photo Credit: Adrian Wyld-Canadian Press

Conditions for domestic help for diplomats in Canada: delicate issue

Foreign diplomats and their staff are facing new rules when hiring household helpers in Canada.  This comes as a result of investigation and other allegations about the treatment and exploitation of the domestic help hired from abroad.

New rules say that only senior diplomats, such as ambassadors, ambassadors, high commissioners, career consul generals, heads of international organizations and their deputies, will be allowed to hire domestic servants from abroad, but will also have to provide written explanation of what measures they took to look for servants already in Canada, and why bringing in someone from abroad is necessary.

At least five embassies or high commissions located in Canada have been temporarily barred from hiring new domestic workers in the recent past.   The names of the countries facing hiring restrictions were not revealed.

In spite of that some violations have continued, according to the Office of Protocol of Canada, This agency overseas more than 8,000  foreign representatives in Canada.

One report from the Office dated December 2013 said that Canadian officials met with the a particular ambassador and imposed a temporary ban on hiring new domestic workers after the Office “detected troubling information indicative of involuntary servitude faced by all domestic workers [9 in total]” employed by diplomats from that country”

Restrictions on hiring could be lifted once a country demonstrate concrete measures to comply with Canadian workplace standards and policies, along with proof that domestic help are being paid on time and in full and at fair rates.

In May, Ottawa police announced that they had laid human-trafficking charges against a diplomatic couple from the Philippines. The couple had legally brought in a 26-year-old Filipino woman to work as a nanny, but they made her work 14-hour days, stripped her of her identification documents, controlled her movements, and limited phone access, say police.

Facing a request by the Canadian government to remove their diplomatic immunity, the couple returned to the Phillipines.

A former official noted however that while the Canadian government can impose restrictions related to hiring household workers it was a “delicate” situation, as Canadian embassy staff abroad also wanted some flexibility in terms of their hiring of household workers.

Rights of domestic help in diplomatic households

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