Fuzzy to many caregivers, viewed differently by panelists

Community News & Features Aug 16, 2010 at 1:59 pm

CHANGES IN THE LIVE-IN CAREGIVER PROGRAM:

TORONTO — The changes in the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) are still unclear to many caregivers, the beneficiaries of the program, and have drawn varied and oppposing views from speakers at a recent forum.

Tagged “Bayanihan,” a town hall meeting was organized by Migrante Ontario and Independent Workers’ Association on Sunday, Aug. 8.

Present during the forum as panelists were caregiver advocates Pura Velasco of Caregiver Support Services; immigration lawyer Rafael Fabregas; Connie Sorio, of Independent Workers’ Association and Maru Maesa of Migrante Ontario. Also in the panel were Terry Olayta and Merfa Yap-Bataclan of Caregiver Resource Centre. Paul de la Cruz, president of the Philippine Press Club-Ontario, was the moderator of the meeting.

About a hundred caregivers, some with friends and relatives, flocked to St. Simon-the-Apostle Anglican Church, to fully understand the changes in LCP but almost majority still left the venue in limbo as to what benefits the changes brought to the caregivers who are already here.

From left: Connie Sorio, Maru Maesa and Merfa Yap-Bataclan

From left: Connie Sorio, Maru Maesa and Merfa Yap-Bataclan

“Sana nililinaw na nila na hindi na talaga kailangan ang second medical exam, hindi yung may discretion pa rin ang immigration officer (I hope they clarify that the second medical exam is not anymore necessary, and not a discretion of the immigration officer),” says Eva one of the attendees, who had just filed her application for permanent residency.

Evelyn, who also attended the meeting, echoed Eva’s sentiment as she said one of her friends who got her open permit recently was still instructed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to undergo a medical examination.

Lea, who used to work overtime for her demanding employer says the ‘work-by-the-hour’ provision won’t help her much because the employer doesn’t include her overtime pay in her salary.

While Olayta and Cataclan were passionate about the rights and welfare of the caregivers, both believe that the recent LCP changes are something that have to be looked at on a positive note.

“I’m very hopeful and very positive of the changes brought by both Federal and Ministry of Labor on the LCP,” says Cataclan. “I’m optimistic na yung maliliit na (the small) gaps ay puwede nating remedyuhan (we can remedy).”

From left: Terry Olayta, Pura Velasco and Rafael Fabregas

From left: Terry Olayta, Pura Velasco and Rafael Fabregas

But Velasco and Fabregas insisted that unless the caregivers are given permanent residency upon arrival in Canada, these caregivers will continue to be vulnerable to their employers’ and recruitment agencies’ abuse.

“For as long as the Canadian government do not grant the permanent resident status upon arrival to caregivers, we’re fooling ourselves in believing that these changes address the caregivers’ issues,” says Fabregas.

Velasco believes that the recent LCP changes are more to the advantage of the Canadian government than to the caregivers.

“The extension of time to complete the 24 months quota is profitable for government and employers. It gives them more time to keep caregivers docile. It’s a wasted time for caregivers and more expenses for their permit renewal,” says Velasco.

During the meeting, she also mentioned various disadvantages of the LCP changes. She is not convinced that the provision where the employers are to shoulder the expenses of hiring the caregiver, including the latter’s transportation expenses, protects the caregiver.

“A lot of employers won’t agree to it, I’m sure caregivers will still pay for their expenses. And if they won’t the employers will be more controlling due to fear of being left by the caregiver,” says Velasco.

Author Riza Khamal (right) asks a question at the “Bayanihan” forum on the LCP changes. At left is Rafael Fabregas and Paul de la Cruz, president of Philippine Press Club-Ontario, moderator.

Author Riza Khamal (right) asks a question at the “Bayanihan” forum on the LCP changes. At left is Rafael Fabregas and Paul de la Cruz, president of Philippine Press Club-Ontario, moderator.

Meanwhile Maesa, although she believes in lobbying the caregiver’s permanent residency upon arrival, also acknowledged that the recent changes in LCP are a hard-won success and somehow she said there was a change. But she encouraged everyone to be more vigilant and more active and continue to fight for their rights.

A caregiver herself, she called for a quick reunification of families, due to its negative effect to youth who are growing up motherless.

Acknowledging that the recent changes have fallen short of what the community wanted and fought for, Sorio believes too that the immigration status of caregivers will always put a divide between them and their employers.

With Fabregas believing on desperation as the driving force that pushes Filipino women to go out of the country and leave their family behind and tolerate the abuses of their employers, all the panelists were one in pointing at the Philippine government for not protecting the caregivers here.

“Kahit ano pa ang pakikipaglaban natin dito, kung ang proteksyon mula sa gobyerno ay wala, wala tayong patutunguhan (However we fight here, if the protection of the (Philippine) government is missing we’ll go nowhere),” says Maesa.