More photo ops than concrete answers

Community News & Features Mar 22, 2019 at 4:41 pm
Second photo op after the private meeting. (Photos: MC Ramos)

Second photo op after the private meeting.
(Photos: MC Ramos)

Part 2: New Caregiver Pilot Programs

By Michelle Chermaine Ramos
The Philippine Reporter

The caregivers and their supporters were denied the opportunity to ask questions during the Q&A session of the announcement of the new caregiver pilot programs on Saturday February 23, 2019 at The Neighborhood Organization as it was strictly moderated for media questions only.

Likewise, the media was denied access to the caregivers’ closed door meeting with the minister and politicians following that announcement to hear the caregivers’ questions and concerns. (See previous story here: http://philippinereporter.com/2019/03/08/new-caregiver-pilot-programs-high-hopes-unanswered-questions/)

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen

However, earlier that same afternoon, the media was invited and encouraged to shoot B-roll and take photos of the politicians visiting caregivers in an English class in session prior to heading to the adjacent room where they held the public announcement. Therefore, it naturally seemed strange that the media was barred from joining the meeting with select caregivers that immediately followed where caregivers tried to get concrete answers and specific details regarding the changes that directly impact their lives – answers for which the government had none.

In the following days, this reporter and the interviewees below received several phone calls from caregivers who complained about the lack of specific details despite the hype. Many were upset that they were excluded from participating in the private meeting. Moreover, those who were allowed in the room reported that they were not given the chance to talk to the minister about their concerns since they were told that designated representatives would ask questions on the group’s behalf. This was supposedly due to lack of time – time that however seemed plenty for b-roll and photo ops before, during and after the public announcement and private meeting.

“Many care workers and the members even thought, oh why were we even there if we can’t ask questions? “ Kara Manso of Caregivers Action Centre said. “It was just like a show to have an announcement but not be able to ask questions regarding a program that would affect them.”

Aside from questions about the immigration pathways, many caregivers who are victims of fraud and suffering employer abuse wanted to report their experiences and get answers or advice directly from the minister and politicians and felt frustrated by how heavily moderated the discussions were. Their voices and the voices of organizations representing them need to be heard.
Here, members and leaders of the caregiver community share their thoughts.

Kara Manso, Caregivers  Action Centre

Kara Manso, Caregivers
Action Centre

Kara Manso, Caregivers Action Centre

“Two of our members from Caregivers Action Centre were there at the announcement. They had lots of questions but they weren’t allowed to speak or ask them,” Manso reported.

NEW PATHWAYS ARE STILL EXCLUSIONARY

“It’s been part of our demand ever since that care workers are given open work permits and an interim step while the government is creating PR upon our arrival. That’s our main demand and it still is. I think with the announcement, a lot of care workers can apply especially with the Interim Pathway but it’s still very exclusionary. It does not include people who lost their immigration status. The Interim Pathway has a very short timeline to apply and many care workers don’t have the time to process everything. It takes so much time and money. Many care workers have been calling me. It has caused so much stress on them because they don’t have enough information about this announcement and what can happen to them because it’s not very specific. There are many loopholes and we’re still trying to find answers from the government. You want to plan for your life and it’s just really unfair when your life is controlled by a certain immigration program and I think care workers deserve to know what will happen with the program and they need to know the details.”

Lhei Buyayo of Pinoy Dreams

Lhei Buyayo of Pinoy Dreams

Lhei Buyayo, Pinoy Dreams

“Are they going to ask for the requirements again? Is it going to be a tougher requirement to be a permanent resident? And the LMIA. Caregivers were given exactly two years visa. There’s no leeway for them to submit the application to CIC. Sometimes they won’t even give a two-year visa. What they can do is they can extend their work permit from their employers but then those employers have to get new LMIAS so they can re-hire or extend the work permit of their employees. So, if it’s an abusive employer, it’s going to be harder. Those were fees that are supposed to be covered by the employer but what I heard from other people is that they make the nannies pay for it. It’s one thousand bucks too.

“It sounds wonderful but I have unanswered questions here. How long would it take for the new caregivers who are coming here to process their PR application? Is it going to take years again?”

WHAT ARE THE MEDICAL REQUIREMENTS?

“Prior to coming to Canada to work as a caregiver, they have to do the medical test so they’ve passed that. But for permanent residency, why do they have to undergo another medical requirement? It makes sense if you’re applying as a permanent resident coming to Canada with other work permits. That’s a requirement but why do you have to take it twice as a caregiver and then as a permanent resident? Are the requirements going to be tougher?’’

Esel Laxa Panlaqui, TNO

Esel Laxa Panlaqui, TNO

Esel Laxa Panlaqui, The Neighborhood Organization

“There were some things that were really good like the occupational work permit and we requested that so we’re really happy about that. But most of the things there were very general with no specifics. That’s why a lot of them are asking questions. For example, if they are going to be assessed if they are applying from the Philippines and what will be the criteria for them to qualify as caregivers to come here and the minister said they are still developing those criteria.”

LANGUAGE TESTS

Caregivers are asking about the interim program because many already completed the 24-month requirement but did not pass the CELPIP and IELTS language tests so they are unable to apply for PR.
“Their point is they’re already here and they’re good enough to work and communicate with their employers so why do they need to take that language test?” asks Panlaqui. “We are telling him (Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen) that there are people who completed it but did not pass the test yet. What will happen to them? He’s saying that is something they might want to look into so he’s asking for data. There are things that we need to provide him in terms of the issues and concerns.”

Connie Sorio, Kairos

Connie Sorio, Kairos

Connie Sorio, Migrant Justice Coordinator at KAIROS

“Family separation is a huge issue among migrant caregivers. This new program is in the right direction in addressing that, but of course, the devil is in the details, right? How exactly will they address that if the eligibility or requirements are higher than what we have now in the current program looking at the barriers and so forth? The timing is just not right. The program ends in November 2019 and you rolled out this new program in February telling people that we have two pathways but we are still in the process of developing the criteria and so forth. The question is, is there an opportunity for people or advocates or even migrant workers to put forward recommendations to make sure that the eligibility or criteria is friendly and not onerous?”

IS THERE AN APPEAL PROCESS?

“What if the worker is refused then there is no appeal process in the countries where they are coming from? Whereas for those already here or under the old or the canned program, you are assessed as a worker, then after two years you are assessed as a permanent resident and if you’re refused, there is an appeal process in Canada. But in the countries they are coming from, there are no opportunities for that or at least we don’t know yet if that is possible.”

WHAT ABOUT THE 6 PERCENT?

“The Minister said that they dealt with the backlog and 94 percent have been processed but what happens to the 6 percent? Would they qualify for this Interim Pathway since many of those in the 6 percent are from the old Live-in Caregiver Program? And the medical inadmissibility is still there.’’

Maria Sol Pajadura of  Migrante Canada

Maria Sol Pajadura of
Migrante Canada

Maria Sol Pajadura, Migrante Canada

RESOURCES FOR NEWCOMERS

“It’s a major victory because the ministerial pilot program gives them sector specific work permits that will allow them to leave their employer or bad jobs without fear of losing their status. But then there’s a lot of questions like when they bring their spouses and their children here, there are no resources announced for them if they’ll be eligible for health programs where they will not be charged high medical fees in case they get sick. Will families with children who need post-secondary education be paying international student fees because they’re under student permits? There are many questions and right now they haven’t announced the details of this five-year pilot program. They are having teleconferences but they’re discussing the interim program for their current caregivers. So, until now there are no details about the five-year pilot that will start in November.”

SMALL INTERIM TIMEFRAME CHALLENGE

“It’s not enough time to even to announce that to caregivers. They have to take time off work to process their applications. There’s still the cap of 5,500 applicants per year. It’s not clear. It was discussed that they lower the criteria because that’s one of the complaints from the caregivers. The language criteria is still there, the five CLB, but the education…the work experience they lowered to one year. They are flexible on the language or ECA (Educational Credential Assessment). As long as you submit proof that you applied for education credentials assessment, they will be okay. They are not strict that you have to have an equivalent of one year post-secondary education or one year college here in Canada.”

WILL NEWCOMERS HAVE OHIP UPON LANDING?

“Those are the questions that we need them to answer but they are not discussing it. They said they will announce the details. The problem with these programs is they’re ministerial programs. It’s not a law. And caregivers are demanding permanent residence upon arrival. It’s only a sector specific work permit so we still continue to demand that landing status upon arrival. It’s a major victory but our struggle still continues until we get landed status upon arrival.”