The religious community of the Institute of Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Conseil was one of the first groups to offer help and support to caregivers working in private residences. They helped build shelters for young women traveling to Montreal from the countryside and refugee camps abroad looking for employment as domestic workers.
In 1947, with the help of a woman named Marie Gérin-Lajoie, one of these shelters became the Social Assistance Center for Immigrants. In the late 1970s, the Association for the Rights of Household Workers of Montreal was founded as a response to the excessive power of employers over the conditions of employment and compliance with the work contract. The organization brought together various actors, creating a valuable community of support. A year later, in 1977, the Montreal Association for the Rights of Household Workers was recognized as an independent, non-profit organization.
In 1998, the organization centered its work on temporary foreign workers admitted as caregivers in Quebec, and officially adopted the Caregivers’ Association of Québec as its name (l’Association des Aides Familiales du Québec – AAFQ). Until 2015, the AAFQ actively brought together workers employed in private family residences – whether part-time or full-time, live-in or not. Members came from diverse backgrounds and were united by a shared desire to improve domestic work conditions, as well as change public perception of domestic work. Relying on the work of volunteers, and a difficult context for community funding, the organization stopped providing individualized services for workers at the end of 2015.
Today, the organization’s work is focused on collective defense of rights projects – and in particular improving the Canadian laws (both federal and provincial) that have a direct impact on the fundamental rights of workers employed within a private household or on the land surrounding the residence of their employer. On July 8th, 2016, the organization took back its original 1977 name, The Association for the Rights of Household Workers, and its members clarified that its mission also includes individuals employed as agricultural workers.
SOME OF OUR VICTORIES OVER THE YEARS
Inclusion of domestic workers in Québec’s Loi sur les normes du travail
Raising concerns over the precariousness of employer-tied temporary foreign workers in Quebec and accross Canada, which led, among other things, to regulatory changes aiming to address employers’ abuse of migrant household and farm workers.
Public awareness about the trafficking of domestic and farm workers
Increased recognition and respect of the work done in private homes
Significant contributions to the ILO for the adoption of International Convention C189 – Convention concerning decent work for domestic workers.