The Muslim Council of Montreal (MCM) is very disturbed to hear of the recent two week suspension of veteran journalist Sue Montgomery from the Montreal Gazette.
A few days after Ms. Montgomery wrote an article (March 18 - see article below) about a Filipino domestic worker who was fired from her job after she refused to get an abortion, The Gazette suspended Ms. Montgomery for
two weeks on a what can only be considered a very flimsy excuse that she did not get a quote from an agency that deals in Filipino domestic workers. In addition, they told her that any other infraction would get her fired. She has been with the Gazette since the mid 1980s.
The Muslim Council Of Montreal holds the view that in fact the real reason for Ms. Montgomery's suspension is due to her outspoken and courageous political views, and not because she, with more than 20 years of journalism experience, didn't try extra hard to get a quote.
The right wing political agenda of the current Gazette owner, Israel Asper, is well known. Even former Publisher Michael Goldbloom quit because of the Asper owners and, in addition, the Gazette management have censored other columnists before - including Lyle Stewart - for his anti corporate globalization columns. Mr. Stewart, a part time but very talented columnist at the time, resigned rather than waste his time writing columns that were never run because of their content. Now it seems to be Ms. Montgomery's turn.
Consider the following and you will see why The Gazette has made this decision:
- In her regular columns, Ms. Montgomery has consistently opposed the right wing Aspers who owns the CanWest media chain
- She has criticized Concordia University's crack-down on free speech after they went after the pro-Palestinian demonstrators who prevented Benjamin Netanyahu's entrance
- She revealed that the Gazette Xmas fund was being skimmed off the top
- Recently praised the anti-war protesters and wrote against war (contrary to The Gazette's pro-war editorials).
The question also has to be asked did The Gazette get wind of Ms. Montgomery's intentions to expose the Diva agency's neo-slavery add on The Gazette's web site auctioning off three Filipino domestic workers for a price, and preemptively suspend her? According to a March 29th article by Gazette journalist Mark Abley, the ads have now been removed from the paper and website due to public pressure.
Ms. Montgomery's suspension is an outrage, and it should anger all those who believe in fair minded and balanced journalism which Ms. Montgomery consistently practices. Even her journalist colleagues are angered over
the Gazette management's decision, and held a benefit party for her this past weekend. They also view her suspension as a warning to them. Many are now submitting their stories with the preface to their editors, "Please have our copy 'lawyered'" - meaning before you run the story, have a lawyer review it.
Ms. Montgomery was told by The Gazette if she didn't oppose this suspension through her union, it would only be for one week. Since she grieved it - The Gazette suspended her for two weeks without pay.
- First of all, publicize Ms. Montgomery's suspension to as many places as you can and oppose the Gazette decision.
- Suspend your Gazette subscription (if you haven't cancelled it already!) until she is re-instated or for two weeks, and tell The Gazette why you are suspending your subscription. Make sure your subscription is stopped - and donated to a worthy charity. The main switch board number at the Gazette is: 514-987-2222
- Write letters to the Gazette opposing their actions against Ms Montgomery:
The Montreal Gazette, 250 St. Antoine St. W, Montreal, QC H2Y 3R7 or
Also, write to the Publisher Larry Smith who is concerned about the image of The Gazette. You might want to remind Mr. Smith that The Gazette's campaign to increase francophone subscribers will be sabotaged
by their censoring of Sue Montgomery and their pro-war stance - positions the liberal francophone community would oppose The Gazette on. His e-mail is email@example.com or write him at the address above.
Please cc Ms. Montgomery at:
Please also cc MCM at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note, your letters WILL be noticed, but they probably won't be published.
Support the good causes Ms. Montgomery writes about. Donate your saved Gazette subscription costs and some time to them.
End note: We would like to acknowledge Scott Weinstein's work in
compiling this information.
THE COLUMN: (Downloaded from The Gazette website Sunday March 30, 2003http://www.canada.com/montreal/montrealgazette/info/montgomery.html)
Abortion becomes price of a job Pregnant nanny is fired. Filipino woman fights back, but counsellors say her plight shows how workers are abused
SUE MONTGOMERY The Gazette
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Dahlia Namian, a counsellor at the Immigrant Workers' Centre, has been
helping a Filipino domestic worker whose employer tried to force her to have an abortion. The centre says federal rules on live-in caregivers leave the women vulnerable to such abuses.
When Marisa's employers whisked her off to Notre Dame Hospital, they told her it was for something "that would be good for her."
"I thought it was for a checkup, and they were discussing everything with the doctor in French, so I didn't know what was going on," the petite 33-year-old Filipino woman recounted in almost a whisper recently.
But when her employer left the room for a few minutes and a nurse started talking to her about an abortion, it became clear what had been arranged.
"I was shocked," Marisa said. "I told them I couldn't have an abortion because it was against my religion."
What followed was a confusing scene of doctors and nurses trying to sort out whether the employer was the woman's husband, the father of the baby or both.
He wasn't any of those - just a busy, married career man with two children who would be greatly inconvenienced if his live-in nanny and maid should take her pregnancy to full term.
"He told me I was just an immigrant and what future would this child have?" Marisa told me, not wanting me to use her real name for fear of reprisals from her employment agency, Eurasian Homecare Services.
Obviously, without Marisa's consent, the doctor couldn't go through with the abortion - and Marisa paid with her job.
Her employers fired her on March 5, dropping all her belongings at the agency. The employers did not return phone calls yesterday.
On Friday, with the help of Dahlia Namian and others at the Immigrant Workers' Centre in Côte des Neiges, Marisa filed a complaint with Quebec's Labour Board, as it's illegal to fire a woman simply because she's pregnant. She also filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
Labour board spokesperson Alain Major said one similar complaint was filed last year, but domestic workers generally remain mum.
"They're vulnerable and that makes them afraid to file a complaint," he
Marisa came to Canada in April 2001, under the 10-year-old federal Live-in Caregiver Program. After jobs with two other potential employers fell through, she was finally hired for this job in February 2002.
The program is designed to meet a specific "labour market need" in Canada, said Immigration Department spokesperson Susan Scarlett.
But the Philippines, for example, gladly exports its workers because the foreign currency they send back to their families is in part what saved it from the economic meltdown experienced in other Asian countries in the 1990s.
While Canada's live-in caregiver program may be beneficial to developing countries' economies, it can open the door to abuse for the workers here.
Advocacy groups are highly critical of its strict rules that say a person must clock 24 months of work within a 36-month period. It's a restriction that makes it all that much more difficult to leave an abusive employer, for fear of not finding another job in the allotted time, and makes no allowances for pregnancies.
Women - it's mostly women filling the demand - can work a 49-hour week, though most work much more because they live in the home and are at the beck and call of employers. They get paid $292 a week.
What attracts many of them is the fact they can apply for permanent residency once they've put in their time. "It allows many of them to immigrate where otherwise they may not be able to," Scarlett said.
But it's this very carrot dangled before them - the coveted Canadian papers - that opens the door to abuse, argues Walter Tom, an mmigration lawyer.
Marisa, for example, says both the agency and her employers threatened to have her deported if she didn't have an abortion.
Sure, the women are briefed on their rights before they leave their home country and given numbers of places they can go to for help, like the police and advocacy groups, but the reality is much different, Tom says.
"Once they're here, people tell them, 'Look, this is the way it is,' " and the threat of deportation always hangs over their heads.
© Copyright 2003 Montreal Gazette
from www.thenewforum.ca March 25, 2003
Montreal Gazette columnist Sue Montgomery has been suspended for two weeks without pay. Ms Montgomery, often the only news columnist in the Gaz newsroom to come at things from something resembling a liberal perspective, was put in the penalty box over this recent piece.
In an email invitation to a benefit for her this weekend, the "Friends
of Sue"say the suspension is meant "to shut down dissenting voices in their newsroom and deprive Montrealers of hardhitting viewpoints like Sue's." They call the suspension "unjustified and abusive."
Update: Not so, according to Jack Romanelli, managing editor of the Gaz. He says the piece in question was not a column but an article. "The situation is not that she made a factual error," he said over the phone from the newsroom. "She violated a cardinal tenet of journalism. She did a one-sided story without bothering to call the other side."
Mr Romanelli said the offended party threatened to sue; the Gaz ran a correction. He said the decision to suspend her was a decision taken by the management and that he could not remember the last time a journalist was suspended.
On the second point, he said the suspension has nothing to do with shutting down her viewpoint. He pointed out if he wanted to do that he could just yank the column and avoid the "rigamarole."
The move by the "Friends of Sue" to support their colleague is "honourable," he said, but he slammed their statements: "I do have a problem with
allegations that are unfounded. They are supposed to be journalists and editors."
In closing, "I just want to make the point here that what she did would not be acceptable in a beginners journalism class. It was a one-sided story. She was reprimanded for that. It has absolutely nothing to do
with shutting down a dissenting viewpoint."
Ah, The Gazette: The managing editor says one of their brand-name columnists made a beginner's mistake; an anonymous group of employees calls their boss' decision "abusive and unjustified."
Sounds like a great place to work.