Lalaine Zamora is a Filipina foreign caregiver who came to Canada in 2015. She was released upon arrival, which meant she was told that she had no employer. Lalaine waited for five months for an LMIA and another three months more to get a work permit. To complete the required 24 months of the caregiver program by November 29 next year, Lalaine will need to make some difficult choices.
The Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced on its website that the two pathways for caregivers: caring for children and caring for people with high medical needs, two pilot programs, will expire on November 29, 2019. Launched by the Conservative Government, these two programs replaced the Live-in Caregiver Program last November 30, 2014. The impact of this announcement and review is that unless caregivers for children and caregivers for high medical needs complete their 24 months of caregiving work by November 29, 2019, they will not qualify for permanent residency (PR). That is the end of the line for them.
In response to this government announcement, migrant groups and advocates held a press conference last Feb 12 at the BC Federation of Labour headquarters to raise their concerns on this new government announcement. They were joined by other groups like Migrante BC, St. Mary’s Migrant Ministry and the constituency office of MLA Mable Elmore.
Instead of this announcement that targets women workers of colour from poor countries, Natalie Drolet, Executive Director of the West Coast Domestic Workers Association, said “the way forward is to provide permanent residency on arrival, provide sector-wide permits instead of closed permits because by not doing so, what we have is indentured labour.” She also added that there should be “open and transparent manner of reviewing the policies by consulting with migrant workers and migrant advocates.”
Lorina Serafico of the Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers shared her personal journey as a caregiver in Canada and echoed the call for landed status upon arrival. Throughout all the iterations of the caregiver program, she declared that “the two things that are constant and permanent are the continuing need for the caregivers and the women who make up the majority of the caregivers in the programs. The time is up for using temporary solutions for this permanent need.” Lorina highlighted the fact that the announcement came days before the celebration of BC’s Family Day, a fact that makes more poignant the years-long separation of caregivers from their children and families because of the unjust structures of the program.
The BC Federation of Labour, through its representative Aaron Ekman, declared the BCFED’s support for the issues and goals of migrant groups and advocates. Unionization of migrant workers such as foreign caregivers and other temporary foreign workers remains a big issue and it will require unions to take a good look on how unions are structured and to find ways to organize migrant workers in the communities.
Byron Cruz of Sanctuary Health and Yoly of a Nannies Agency also declared their support for the caregivers pushing their demands.
Moderator Michelle Silongan of the Filipino Canadian Advocacy Network ended the press conference with a call to the Trudeau government to “ensure permanent residency for all caregivers and migrant workers.” She added that “The ‘pathway’ is a remnant of the Harper administration. It placed a cap on the number of permanent residents from the caregiver program and it created hurdles that worked to dramatically decrease the number of caregivers able to obtain permanent residency.”
Upcoming actions announced include a press conference and Community Meeting in Victoria, BC on Feb 17th, a Community Meeting and rally at the Joyce Collingwood Skytrain Station on Feb 24th and an ongoing petition for permanent residency for all caregivers.
By E. Maestro