Federal gov’t changes to live-in caregiver program would worsen family separation

Community News & Features Jul 25, 2014 at 6:46 pm

TORONTO–In an exclusive feature published July 22 in the Toronto Star, a new study raises serious questions about the federal government’s proposed changes to the live-in caregiver program.

After announcing changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program last month, Employment Minister Jason Kenney raised the possibility of removing the right to permanent residency to caregivers in the Live-In Caregiver, claiming that Filipino families were abusing the program for family reunification.

“Instead of being a program of family reunification, our study shows that the program is actually one of family separation,” says Dr. Ethel Tungohan, co-investigator of the Gabriela Transitions Experiences Survey. “Taking away these women’s right to permanent residency will create significant harms to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist.”

In a direct challenge to Kenney’s claims, the national study of 631 former and current live-in caregivers shows that the vast majority were recruited to Canada through employment agencies. Only one in ten recent caregivers were hired by relatives.

The study suggests that over half all live-in caregivers in Canada are separated from their children while they perform their caregiving duties in Canada. The study also reveals worsening processing times for permanent residency applications, and serious system-level barriers  changes that have an impact on caregiver’s right to permanent residency would have serious consequences for the integration of live-in caregivers and their families to Canada.

“These women are highly educated, providing child and elderly care in the absence of a national care strategy and are often working in very difficult situations,” notes Dr. Tungohan.

“Canadian families and caregivers fought hard for live-in caregivers’ right to permanent residency years ago. Taking that right away would be a serious step backwards.”

The Gabriela Transitions Experiences Survey (GATES) is a national survey of current and former live-in caregivers in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The purpose of GATES is to gather information about the experiences of the Filipino women who are transitioning to life as a Canadian permanent resident from the Live-In Caregiver Program. GATES is a community partnership between Ryerson University and York University, and led by GABRIELA Ontario as its main community organization partner.