Advocates urge Ottawa to give dependants of dead applicants a chance for permanent status.
- Newspaper title
The Toronto Star
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Despite being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, Edna Aldovino postponed her medical treatment and continued to work as a nanny in Toronto.
The dying woman from the Philippines was desperate to collect the employment hours she needed to qualify for permanent resident status to bring her only child, Kenneth, here under Canada’s live-in caregiver program — the last gift she could give him.
When she died in hospital last August after cancer spread to her liver and brain, so did her dream to give Kenneth, now 20, a better life.
Immigration Canada terminates immigration applications when the principal applicant is deceased and a decision is still pending, with no exception for live-in caregivers.
“But the live-in caregiver program is unique because the applicant has to make a commitment and sacrifice before they receive something tangible in return,” said Toronto immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann, who is helping Kenneth on a pro-bono basis.
“They come and spend two years looking after others’ children to allow their own family to come here. They have done their end of the bargain. It’s like we owe it to their kids.”
Although there are only about a dozen such cases a year, Mamann and other advocates said immigration officials should not stop processing these applications, leaving the deceased applicant’s dependants in limbo.
The Canadian Council for Refugees recently passed a resolution at its annual conference asking Ottawa to ensure the permanent residence application is processed to completion, taking into account the best interests of the dependant and other humanitarian considerations.
“Canada has the obligation to consider what’s in the child’s best interest. We are asking (the government) not to stop the process and drop these people like a brick,” said Janet Dench, the council’s executive director.
Aldovino left the Philippines in 1999 to work as a nanny in Taiwan, Kuwait, Singapore and Hong Kong before she ended up in Canada a decade later. Upon her arrival, her agency told her she wasn’t needed anymore and immediately released her contract.
She finally finished her work requirement toward her permanent resident application in early 2013, and only then began treatment for her cancer.
With help and donations from the Filipino community, Aldovino managed to scrape together money for a visitor’s visa and airfare for Kenneth to visit her at her hospital bed in late July. She died in August.
“I was shocked when I saw how sick she was,” recalled Kenneth, who was raised by his maternal grandmother after he was abandoned by his father. “She didn’t even tell me she was dying. She died nine days after I got here. I was with her till the end.”
Kenneth, who is now staying with a Filipino family in Oakville, said his visitor’s visa has just expired and is up for renewal, a process that can take three to four months. In the meantime, Mamann, the Toronto lawyer, hopes to help him apply for permanent residency under humanitarian consideration.
Aldovino’s story resembles that of live-in caregiver Maricon Gerente, who died earlier last year of a brain tumour, leaving behind her two teenage daughters, Lean, 14, and Saniel, 11.
They came to Canada to visit their dying mother last May with their guardian, aunt Aileen Bazon Tan, under a temporary resident’s visa.
In their case, immigration officials went to the hospital to grant Gerente permanent residency on her deathbed after her story appeared in the Star. The girls and their aunt are renewing their visas that expired in November, and will apply for permanent residency on humanitarian grounds.
“No one plans to be struck by tragedy. All parents want the best for their children, who for sure have a much better future outside of the Philippines,” said Tan, who works to support the girls and became a friend of Kenneth due to their shared circumstances.
Mamann said Ottawa has established special rules to deal with rare situations such as the processing of Sri Lankan boat people arriving en masse on British Columbia’s shores in 2010.
“There should not be discretion. There should be a rule,” said Mamann. “Even though it’s rare, with thousands of live-in caregivers in Canada, it’s going to happen again. This will give the dying mother comfort knowing that her child is going to be OK and their future is not depending on them.”
- Economic sectors
Occupations in services - Domestic work and Home child care providers
- Content types
Statistics on work and life conditions
- Target groups
- Geographical focuses
Philippines and National relevance