COUNSELLOR’S CORNER: Cautionary Information for Young Visitors to GTA
Takanori Kuge, JSS Counsellor
Each year thousands of young people from Japan make their way to the GTA to legally work and live under the Working Holiday visa program. For most of these visitors, their stay will be a great chance to increase their skill and confidence in English as well as have a wonderful cultural experience. However, some will learn hard lessons and become the victims of crooked landlords and bosses. Unfortunately, some suffer not only financial damage, but also criminal and/or sexual abuse.
Through either word of mouth or referral from other agencies and the police, visiting Japanese nationals continue to seek the aid of our organization even though they fall outside of the mandate of JSS. However, because of language and cultural issues we are often their only source for help. The issues that most frequently arise fall into two groups: landlord and tenant problems and employment disputes.
In this article, I’d like to focus on some typical issues pertaining housing for Japanese youths.
For example, the law in Ontario is that landlords are entitled to first and last months’ rent as a deposit plus a small fee of less than $100 for such things like a fob for entry into condominium facilities. Unscrupulous landlords have been known to ask for “security deposit” and/or “key deposit” in the hundreds of dollars from their Japanese tenants. Unfortunately, once the tenant has found out the security deposit is illegal it is pretty much too late to do anything about it since legal procedures are so slow and their visa is only for one year. He or she is already on a plane for Japan before anything can be done.
Working Holiday makers and students have to be very careful moving into accommodation where the tenant needs to share the kitchen and/or bathroom with the landlord since the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA: the law to govern the relationship between landlords and tenants in Ontario) does not apply to this situation.
On a darker side are issues of sexual assault/harassment by landlords. Every year JSS deals with quite a few cases, in which Japanese women on Working Holiday and/or Student Visa get sexually assaulted and/or harassed by their landlords. Most cases have gone unreported to police. It seems some crooked landlords know and take advantage of the fact that Japanese women out of a sense of shame will keep quiet about abuse and simply go back home and try to forget their unfortunate experience. The cases brought into JSS are likely a small fraction of the real figure, which means there are probably many more Japanese women who cry themselves to sleep over such incidents without seeking professional support.
Japanese nationals visiting Canada must do their homework before they leave. Canada does
indeed have a reputation of being a nice country and Toronto being a safe city, but that does not mean everyone is nice and every situation is safe. Japanese people have a reputation for being quiet and compliant. Be mindful that there are people who are willing to take advantage of that compliance. Be smart and have a safe and enjoyable stay.