Migrant care workers call for labour security, fairness

Community News & Features Nov 23, 2018 at 6:03 pm

P5_value_your_care_value_our_workBy Ysh Cabana
The Philippine Reporter

TORONTO–It’s only a year before the Caregiver Program will expire and thousands of migrant workers in Canada live in fear whether they will be able stay.

Care workers who are part of an advocacy coalition held simultaneous news conferences in Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa demanding for immigration reforms that will provide landed status upon entry. The coalition, comprised of 14 various groups, also launched a new report on Sunday November 18.



The “Care Worker Voices for Landed Status and Fairness” report features 150 personal stories of hundreds of care workers separated from family, earning low wages, and having uncertain residency status.

The demands come as Ottawa prepares to review the five-year pilot program for foreign care that was developed “without consultation, input or direction” from care workers, according to the report.

In 2014, the previous government closed the Live-in Caregiver Program to new applicants, citing an application backlog that reached as high as 62,000 — among the highest in the entire Canadian immigration system.

However, migrant worker programs have been, under all circumstances, dehumanizing for care workers who are mostly women, said Kara Manso, coordinator of Toronto-based Caregivers Action Centre. “Women like us have been coming to Canada for over a century raising children, taking care of the sick and the elderly, being the backbone of the economy, and yet we are treated like we are expendable,” said Manso, a former caregiver herself.

Within the past five years, the report says, an average of 8,000 permits were issued to new care workers whose applications were all limited to specific employers and did not include their families. And 95 per cent of care workers reported family separation as the most detrimental impact of the current program.



Marco Luciano of Migrante Alberta, said care workers are living with uncertainty. “For some of the workers, it really is losing their status. What they’re waiting for is access to permanent residency. It’s hard for them to get another work permit. That would mean they need to make that hard decision of staying or going,” he said.

Delays worry proponents of the program to bring in more care workers from countries like the Philippines which ranks as the top source of migrants to Canada.

Milanio Napolitano arrived in Canada in 2014 to work as a caregiver. “My work experience with my first employer didn’t go so well. I worked technically around the clock [to take care of the children],” she said adding that she was only paid for a nine hour shift.

“It was very difficult for me,” she explained. “I lost contact with my kids I left when my daughter was four years (four years ago) old and my son was three.”

Four and a half years later, Napolitano and her two children were unable to join her until just five months ago.

The report is also calling to for the removal of the cap on permanent residency applications and education requirements. It also seeks to repeal a section of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act  that deems an entire family inadmissible if one member has a disability.



Another area of concern is the application backlog.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Shannon Ker said in an earlier interview the ministry has reduced that backlog to about 9,700 as of July and has introduced two separate pilot programs for workers caring for children and patients with high medical needs.

“The government is committed to ensuring that caregivers continue to have a pathway to permanent residence. An assessment is underway on both of these pilots … [to] determine what pathway to permanent residence should be in place after that date,” Kerr said.

However, the ministry has not outlined plans for a replacement program, said Lorina Serafico, of Vancouver’s Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights, part of the coalition.

Serafico said that in her nearly three decades in the field, she has seen generations of caregiver families separated. But the immediate concern is for those care workers who are already in Canada under the current program.

“What kind of legal documentation will we provide them?” she asked. “They have families back home. They need jobs, they need work, they need money.”