Thorny rose: Canada’s live-in care program

>> Friday, January 29, 2010

Ana worked in Canada as a caregiver for six long years before she was finally able to gain a permanent residency status and sponsor her family to Canada.

Canada’s Live-In Caregiver (LCP) program requires that a caregiver-migrant worker with a temporary work visa must complete 24 months of live-in work within a 36-month period before she can obtain an open visa and apply for permanent residency.

That means the caregiver has to stay in her employer’s house for at least two to three years and be rewarded by calling her family to Canada.

Otherwise, when she breaks this rule, she will have to work for longer hours to complete the requirement and suffer more the separation. SIKLAB, a Filipino-based workers group in Canada says the caregiver stays as long as eight years to complete the requirement due to change of employers among other reasons including processing delays of the Canadian Immigration Council (CIC) in granting an open permit.

Staying in the employer’s home is an issue by itself. Ana is not happy having suffered the loneliness of not being with her family for 6 years.

‘The mandatory live-in requirement places caregivers under the beck and call of their employers for 24 hours a day. Many women under the LCP work overtime hours for little or no pay, even after formalizing a set of rules about overtime hours on an employment contract, if at all. Despite the myth that caregivers are “members of the family,” the live-in requirement makes it more favorable to the employers to enjoy the cheap labor of these women’, SIKLAB contends.

Much as it is exploitative of cheap labor, the LCP denies the caregiver the universal right to mobility to live outside her employer’s home. Call it modern day slavery; the migrant worker-caregiver endures the stay- in arrangement just to comply with the requirement for a promising ‘future’ of calling her family to join her in Canada.

The 3,900 hours work requirement before one can apply for a permanent residency status is one among the reforms in the LCP program issued by Canadian Minister Jason Kenney last December 12.

The other reforms are: extension of the period of being able to complete the live-in requirement from three years to four years; elimination of the second medical examination when applying for permanent residency; employers covering the live-in caregiver’s travel and medical costs and providing signed contracts that clearly outline work hours, overtime, sick leave and vacation, and that live-in caregivers will be able to obtain emergency work permits within three weeks if they are abused.

Some LCPers are happy of these reforms, yet SIKLAB says Kenney is no Santa Claus to the thousands of migrant caregivers in Canada. At least 96 percent of Canada's Filipino migrant workers are caregivers. “The 3,900 hours is no different from working 24 months. This is, in fact, another way of exploiting the cheap labor that will only benefit the employers,” stated Roderick Carreon, National Chairperson of SIKLAB Canada.

These reforms are “exploitative,” says the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada (NAPWC), SIKLAB Canada (Filipino workers organization) and Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada/Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance (UKPC/FCYA). The groups say these changes ‘make the racist and anti-woman LCP more palatable to Canadians in order to cover-up the systemic weaknesses inherent in immigration policies.’

Yet, some caregivers apparently ignore the issue and are still happy that there is LCP. Ana says she is happy that the LCP is there and has made her family life better among other Filipino-migrant workers’ lives. With miserable poverty in the Philippines, a Flipino caregiver would be happy even in suffering conditions abroad in exchange for a promising ‘income’ and being able to sponsor her family finally to Canada after a long wait. Besides, Ana took advantage of the Canadian government’s privatized child/eldercare program and now manages a caregiver home catering to Canadians needing privatized care from Filipino caregivers.

SIKLAB sees this privatized healthcare as the failure of the government to provide social services to its citizens. The LCP is the de facto national childcare program of Canada which shows government’s lack of a universal childcare and eldercare program.

While Filipinos continue to migrate to Canada as a promising haven from poverty in the Philippines, and be a rich source of caregivers for Canadian elderly and children, the equal need for this rich and cost saving human resource of the Canadian government needs recognition and given its due: That they not be held captive within their employers’ home unless they want to; that foreign professionals such as nurses and doctors are treated professionally and bring their families along with them when they enter Canada; and that the LCP program be scrapped to avoid more suffering migrant worker-caregivers separated from their families.

From Northern Philippine Times


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