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Newspaper article

New federal rules to protect foreign live-in caregivers

Date

2009-12-12

Authors

Graeme Wood

Abstract

The federal government announced Saturday a set of proposed regulations it says will better protect the rights of live-in caregivers and make it easier for them and their families to obtain permanent residency in Canada.

Newspaper title

Vancouver Sun

Full text

VANCOUVER — The federal government announced Saturday a set of proposed regulations it says will better protect the rights of live-in caregivers and make it easier for them and their families to obtain permanent residency in Canada.
But some in the Filipino community — which comprises the majority of live-in caregivers — say the changes won't go far enough to fix the discrimination and abuse caregivers face at work.
The proposed changes fall under the Live-in Caregiver Program, a federal body designed to regulate immigrants who provide care in private homes for children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.
One major change will give caregivers an extra year to complete the work requirements to obtain permanent residence status in Canada.
As it stands, caregivers must work two full years within the first three years of coming to Canada before they can apply for permanent residence status. The new proposal will allow a caregiver four years to complete 3,900 work hours. Caregivers will be allowed to apply early by using a portion of overtime hours worked.
Caregivers will also not have to undergo a medical examination upon applying for permanent residency. This change comes in the wake of the death of Juana Tejada, a caregiver who died of cancer last March and was initially denied permanent residency because of her disease. Tejada is said to be the inspiration behind the change after she appealed the decision and won.
"We propose to implement this change in Juana Tejada's honour," said Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.
Other changes include requiring the employer to pay for travel costs when the worker moves to Canada, medical insurance until the caregiver becomes eligible for provincial health coverage, and recruiting fees owed to third parties.
The proposals, announced at the Multicultural Helping House in Vancouver by Randy Kamp, MP for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, were received with both approval and criticism from caregivers in attendance.
Lorina Serafico, a member of the Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers, said that while the proposals are an improvement they don't address many important issues.
For instance, caregivers will still have to work in Canada for two years without any of the rights permanent residents have. This leaves the workers open to discrimination and abuse, said Serafico, a former nanny who came to Canada in 1990.
It also means caregivers can't apply to bring their families to Canada until they finish the program. The application process then takes anywhere from two to three years, meaning many caregivers go about four to six years without their families, she said.
Nannies work 10 hours a day on average, Serafico said, because they need to be working while the parents are commuting to and from work. But nannies in the program are paid a fixed rate and there's no way for them to prove they worked overtime, even under the new changes, she said.
"It's the enforcement of the law that's being ignored. There's not enough enforcement," Serafico told Kamp during a question period.
According to Glecy Duran, a nanny and advocate for Filipino migrant workers, the fact that caregivers in the program are still required to live in the homes of the employer is "one of the fundamental discriminatory aspects of the Live-in Caregiver Program."
Duran contends caregivers do much more than what their contract stipulates and such work is tantamount to unpaid overtime work. She said the program needs to be scrapped entirely and caregivers should be given permanent residency when they arrive in Canada.
Duran said the Live-in Care Program is a de-facto national childcare program and equivalent to the privatization of the medical system since caregivers provide for the elderly. With an aging population Duran said caregivers should be recognized more for what they contribute to Canada.
Kamp said the program "makes it very clear that [work] must be related to [the caregiver's] job."
According to Don Davies, deputy immigration critic for the NDP, a standing committee report unanimously adopted by parliament last month recommended caregivers be given permanent residency upon arriving in Canada.
"These changes are thin and cosmetic," said Davies, who wants caregivers to be granted conditional permanent residency upon arrival to Canada.
Kamp said his government will publish the proposals on Dec. 19 and a 30-day public comment period will follow. The proposals fall under federal jurisdiction and will be applied in each province, according to an immigration Canada spokesperson.
When asked if the government will consider changes to the proposal based on the criticisms that were voiced at the announcement Kamp replied: "This is what [the government] thinks is the right approach."

Economic sectors

Occupations in services - Domestic work

Content types

Policy analysis and Documented cases of abuse

Target groups

Public awareness

Geographical focuses

Canada, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, British Columbia, Other provinces, Federal, Philippines, Nova Scotia, and National relevance

Languages

English