Letter from a Supporter

Community News & Features Aug 22, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Dear Prime Minister Harper, Minister Kenney, Minister Alexander and my Member of Parliament,

I am writing to express my concerns with suggestions to make it harder for persons coming to Canada through the Live-In Caregiver Program, as well as those already here, to obtain permanent residency. As explained below, this is a program that makes a significant contribution to Canada’s economy, but which puts its employees in an often precarious reality, which they accept primarily due to the promise of immigration at the end of the road. Removing the main incentive for employees to enter the program would deal a crippling blow to this economically advantageous program.

Live-In Caregivers work extremely hard to care for Canadian children and the elderly, the latter positions being particularly demanding and difficult to fill with Canadians. They offer an affordable care option for working middle class families that have few affordable care alternatives. In many cases of elderly care they enable families to provide their aging parents with care in the parents’ native language, to which they revert due to the vagaries of age. They come from all over the world – while Philipino/Philipina LICs have made the news recently, many come from other, including European, countries (I know LICs from Poland and Italy myself).

These workers face a precarious situation. I’m no activist, but have had the chance to meet several former and current LICs. While there are many decent employers, exploitation and abuse – withholding of passports, verbal abuse, forced work beyond care requirements, poor living conditions, withholding of wages – abound. Physical and sexual abuse, while not the norm, is not uncommon either, and is a constant fear for workers who work/live in the confines of a Canadian’s home and castle and away from the eyes of authorities, workers who are scarcely aware of their legal rights and protections, and who depend on their employers for their legal status in Canada.

In most cases these workers come here, separated from their families and support networks, and willing to accept this reality, due to the promise of immigration to Canada at the end of two years. Think about it – would you move to a foreign country, away from your own children/parents/spouse, to spend two years at minuscule pay and subpar living conditions daily cleaning up after an elderly person who can no longer control their urine or feces, without the prospect of full immigration for you and your loved one at the end of those two years, after proving yourself as a dedicated worker willing to contribute to your host country’s economy?

A tougher PR process for LICs would mean less of them willing to come. Those who would come are the ones most desperate in their home countries – hardly the persons to whom you’d want to entrust your kids or vulnerable aging parents. This would be a crippling blow to a program that otherwise makes it possible for many young, upwards mobile Canadian families with high earning potential to actualize that potential. The loss to our economy would outweigh other gains the move may hold.

I urge the federal government to halt changes to the LIC program that will make it harder for caregivers to receive permanent residency.