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Newspaper article

Foreign caregivers’ Christmas wishes to Santa, Trudeau and Hussen

Date

2017-12-17

Authors

Nicholas Keung

Newspaper title

Toronto Star

Full text

Separated from their spouses and kids amid a never-seem-to-end immigration backlog, they find X’mas the loneliest time for them when they see others together with their families.

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Roselie Dael, centre, has been waiting for 85 months.

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While Christmas is a time to be with family, many foreign caregivers can only watch other Canadians celebrate the holiday, with their minds set on their own families oceans away.

For many of the caregivers, some waiting for as long as seven years for the permanent residency to reunite with their families, Christmas is the hardest and loneliest moment of the year.

All they can do is look at the family photos they brought with them from the last time they were together back home — often when the children were still very young.

This year, caregivers stuck in the immigration backlog have launched a letter-writing campaign, encouraging Canadians to write to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen asking them for the mercy of clearing the backlog and reuniting their families.

At a recent town hall meeting, Hussen said he sympathized with the caregivers’ situation and boasted that the backlog has come down to the current 23,000 applications from the peak of 62,000 in 2014. The government hopes to clear 80 per cent of the backlog by the end of 2018.

Four caregivers, in Toronto and elsewhere, are sharing their personal letters to Trudeau and Hussen, explaining why even waiting one more year is too long.

Here are the edited excerpts of their letters.

Roselie Dael, Toronto, mother of three, waiting for 85 months:

“The long years of waiting are a painful process. I got blamed for all the instability in the family. I am running out of excuses. Immigration can’t provide me a clear explanation what is causing the delay. All I’ve been told is that they’ve been doing background checks for my dependants.

“The medical results of my family members have expired, again. They’ve already been asked to undergo medical exams twice. Each time, I spent almost $2,500, including their airfare cost to fly from our hometown to Manila or Cebu City.

“Long-distance mothering is very challenging. I can communicate with my family through Viber and Skype, but I want to hug and kiss my kids. The love and care that I couldn’t give to them because of our physical distance are transferred to the children of my employer. I became emotionally attached to them. I don’t want my family to fall apart. I hope you will understand my situation and grant me status now.”

Lourdes Tiu Caguioa, La Ronge, Sask., mother of four, waiting for 68 months:

“Christmas Day is the hardest time of the year for caregivers like me who have been away from my family for such a long period of time. I have not spent Christmas with my family since 2010.

“All these years, there is always a strong feeling of guilt about leaving my children behind. I wished to see my father when he was in and out of hospital in 2016. I couldn’t immediately visit him because I needed to accumulate vacation days and save money for my airfare. By the time I made it home, it was too late. He had already died.”

Charina Bravo, Richmond, mother of two, in the queue for 85 months:

“All I want for Christmas is to reunite with my children and husband as quickly as possible. My children and I have become strangers to each other. They’re hesitant to approach me. This makes me feel regretful about my decision of leaving them behind. Missing the growing years of my children is my greatest regret. I missed all their birthdays and graduation ceremonies.

“I try to catch up with my family through Facebook video calling. Because of the time difference, finding common time becomes a barrier for us to communicate regularly. Sometimes I feel like I’m giving up. I feel sorry for myself. Loneliness strikes when I come home from work. I cry and cry a lot.

“I pray to God every day to give me strength. Don’t make us wait another year.”

Perlita Hamoy, Calgary, mother of two, in the queue for 60 months:

“My last Christmas with my family was in 2011. Surviving loneliness is a skill that I learned all these years. I’ve learned to accept that as part of my reality as a migrant mother.

“I came here to provide a more secure future for my kids. I dream for a better life for them. I keep on asking myself if that was a good decision. I always get the same question from my husband and children if I would still want them to come to Canada.

“The last time I was with my daughter on her birthday was when she was 4-year-old. She’s now 13.

“I have learned to cope with the pain. I’ve got two jobs and I’ve been working long hours to keep myself busy. I have visited my family only three times since I came in 2010. My daughter is aloof to me. It’s painful to see her act that way. How can I explain to her that I never wanted to leave them in the first place? It was the poverty and unemployment that forced me to do so. I know someday she will understand.”

Links

Economic sectors

Home child care providers

Content types

Documented cases of abuse, Statistics on work and life conditions, and Systemic/state violation of right/freedom

Target groups

Policymakers and Public awareness

Geographical focuses

Federal and Philippines

Languages

English