Rejoinder: Slave-like treatment of caregivers is well-documented

Community News & Features Feb 1, 2005 at 4:03 pm

Dear Ms. Teodora Alonzo,

I find your reaction to my article  “Caregivers ask Canadian government: Stop treating us like slaves” interesting but needs to be clarified.

The Webster dictionary defines “defamatory” as a statement that tends “to attack or injure the reputation or honor of (Canada and its  Live-in Caregiver Program) by false and malicious statements, slander or libel.”

To be honest with you, if the Canadian government thinks that the article and the facts I presented are false, malicious statements, slanderous or libelous I am certain that they will be the first ones to file charges against me in the Courts of Law. The basis for my article is supported by facts and the concrete experiences of participants of the live-in caregiver program of Citizenship and Immigration Canada as documented by the Community Alliance for Social Justice, the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada and the Philippine Women Centre of Toronto and the various focus groups conducted by CASJ, NAPWC, and the PWC of Toronto.

I don’t find the de-skilling of our Philippine nurses and other professionals who are denied the opportunity to practice their professions beneficial to the caregivers, 93 percent of whom are Filipinos, and the Canadian society as a whole. Their talents and skills are laid to waste by the stringent requirements of the LCP program. They are made to suffer under the requirements of the LCP while the Canadian society is bereft of much needed nurses, doctors and other health care professionals.

The long years of separation from their families back home are having its toll on the family unit. As a result, couples and children become estranged from their families. Have you heard and read about cases of suicides, caregivers forced into abortion by employers, financial exploitation such as unpaid overtime, underpayment and other racially motivated verbal, physical and sexual assaults endured by our Kababayans from abusive employers? Yes, there may be some who are exemplary in their treatment of caregivers but as long as caregivers are not accorded the same rights as other immigrants and there are no safeguards and monitoring of employers of the LCP participants, abuses that I have written about in my article are bound to happen. Tell me, are these abuses and slave-like treatment of caregivers beneficial to the caregivers?

Frankly, those who benefit from these oppression, exploitation and slavery are the Canadian government who take advantage of their cheap labor, abusive employers and our corrupt Philippine government officials who benefited from over $8-10B US dollar remittances of migrant workers last year and who fail to protect caregivers and migrant workers.

If you are a Filipino, you must be numbed, blind, mute and hard of hearing not to feel, see, know, listen and speak out against the grave injustices that are going on in the lives of your co-Filipinos, especially those in the LCP program.

How do you differentiate the mandatory live-in requirement of the Live-in Caregiver Program vis-à-vis modern-day slavery? According to the dictionary, slavery is the hard work or toil like that done by slaves.” Think again.

Obviously you are confused because you did not read my article properly. As a founding member of CASJ, let me re-iterate our position regarding the LCP program. We demand from the Canadian Government:

1. The abolition of the mandatory live-in requirement

2. Granting of permanent Residency Status upon arrival

and giving live-in caregivers the same rights and benefits as other immigrants to Canada.
3. Canada’s signing of the UN Convention for the Protection of Migrant Workers and Their Families.

We are not against the success of those who toiled under the LCP program. We want our fellow Filipinos to succeed and have better lives in Canada. But, we, in CASJ will not stop protesting and speaking out against injustices, exploitation, oppression and abuse and will go on fighting for the rights of Filipinos and members of the marginalized and neglected communities.

We, Filipinos are hard workers, one of the most highly educated visible minority in Canada and it is not surprising that some of us are able to attain our dreams and aspirations. But many of us are still struggling due to systemic racism, discrimination and human rights abuses.

This is the total picture.

Of course, as a writer for international news agencies, daily newspapers, Internet-based publications and The Philippine Reporter, I do my research before writing my stories. I stand by what I have written and it is the truth.

If there are many Filipinos applying as caregivers, have you pondered and asked yourself why? Long years of colonial domination by Spain and the U.S. coupled by our corrupt government officials have relegated the Philippines as a cheap labor exporter of the country’s best and our skilled women and health care professionals as domestic workers abroad.

I hate to say this, but you are blaming the victims with your statement that “it is the Filipinos who want to come here, sometimes, desperately, under the LCP.” They are forced by circumstances to become caregivers.

Are you a real Filipino? If you are really truthful and honest, why do you hide under the fictitious name Teodora Alonzo, the mother of our national hero, Jose Rizal? Only those who want to deceive and sow intrigues try to hide their identities.

Freedom of expression and free speech are guaranteed by Canada’s constitution. This and other Canadian hallmarks are laudable. While it is true that we have to be grateful for the opportunity Canada has given to us as Filipino-Canadians, there are things that we as Canadian citizens must condemn and voice our concern. If CASJ members and myself find justifiable reasons to criticize the Canadian government for its treatment of caregivers, then we have the duty and the right to do so. Just because we are Canadians and consider the LCP program as modern-day slavery due to many documented evidence and testimony of LCP participants themselves, does that mean we should keep our eyes shut and remain silent? Are we not allowed to speak out for those who are voiceless, scared and intimidated?
And by the way,  LCP participants or caregivers have basic OHIP but no comprehensive medical coverage, welfare and retirement benefits.

You accuse me of writing false statements. Instead of speaking out against the flagrant social injustice committed by the Canadian Government and abusive employers against caregivers you attack me, the Community Alliance for Social Justice and all those working for the welfare and the rights of LCP caregivers and migrant workers. The Philippine Reporter is doing a great service in disseminating truthful information and reports on the problems faced by Filipinos under the LCP program. Its readers are capable of distinguishing between those who are telling the truth and those peddling lies and intrigues.

My article “Caregivers ask Canadian Government: Stop treating us like slaves” is not the cause of the damage to the reputation of Filipinos here and abroad. That problem already existed before my story. Ask President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former presidents of the Philippines why that problem persists. I am not the real McCoy.

I hope I have answered your questions and pray that one day you will join us in discussing and doing something tangible about these important issues.

Edwin C. Mercurio