Migrant Care Workers Raise Their Voices for Landed Status and Fairness
CANADA – Today, migrant Care Workers in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal and Ottawa raised their voices together to call for permanent resident status on arrival and immediate reforms for migrant Care workers in the country simultaneously launching a report with stories from hundreds of Care Workers across Canada. Care Workers are calling for a national care strategy as a matter of fairness and human rights. These changes will also ensure a healthy population in Canada and uphold the integrity of the Canadian immigration system. The Caregiver Program is set to expire in November 2019. Tens of thousands of racialized women who came to Canada with the promise of living in Canada permanently with their families are in limbo, in fear of deportation, yet still full of hope for fairness.
“Women like us have been coming to Canada for over a century raising children, taking care of the sick and the elderly, being the backbone of the economy, and yet we are treated like we are temporary,” says Kara Manso, coordinator of the Caregivers Action Centre in Toronto. “We need a permanent solution for us, and that means landed status on arrival, family unity and justice for workers already here.”
“Care Workers keep coming to Canada with the promise of eventually getting permanent residency, but the program is expiring and the promise is being broken,” says Julie Diesta of the Vancouver Committee for Domestic Worker and Caregiver Rights. “Creating a new permanent program with landed status on arrival is necessary for ensuring belief in the integrity of the laws and policies of the country.”
“Care Workers do the critical work of raising families, caring for an elderly population and ensuring dignity for those who are sick and disabled, without us the economy doesn’t work, yet we get low wages, long work hours, unsafe housing and constant stress” adds Cynthia Palmaria from Migrante Alberta in Edmonton. “Making these changes won’t just benefit migrants, it will ensure that everyone in Canada is healthy and has a better quality of life.”
“Most people have the ability to changes jobs when they have a bad employer, or celebrate their children’s birthday, or sit by their parent’s bedside when they are ill, or be able to take a day off when they are sick, these are basic human rights, and that’s all Care Workers are asking for,” says Evelyn Mondonedo of PINAY Quebec in Montreal. “Care Workers deserve landed status, open work permits, family unity and an end to exclusionary laws.”
“Thousands of Care Workers have come to Canada in the last few decades, we have families here, and we vote, all of us are watching closely how political parties respond to this oncoming crisis,” adds Aimee Beboso of Migrant Ottawa. “But more than the political parties, we are hoping for courageous support from everyday people who will join us for justice and fairness for everyone.”
For over a hundred years, women workers like us have come to Canada to provide care for families, people with disabilities and the elderly. In the last 60 years, that work has been through temporary work programs. The current Caregiver Program was a pilot program created in 2014 by the previous Conservative government without consultation with Caregivers, and is incredibly flawed.
Only 1,955 Care Workers and dependents were granted permanent residency in the first 36 months under the current Caregiver program. This is in stark contrast to the average 10,740 Care Workers and their dependants received permanent resident status every year under the previous Live-In Caregiver program. If this immensely exclusionary program is allowed to lapse, all Care Workers entering Canada today will not have access to permanent residency and may have to make the difficult decision to become undocumented.
Caregiving work in the home is the backbone of Canada’s labour market and social support systems. Without care work, the economy doesn’t work. Canada must create a national care strategy to ensure quality care for children, the elderly and people with disabilities. This is about a healthy population and human rights for all. Decent work and permanent landed status on entry for the workers providing that care labour must be the foundation.
CARE WORKER PROPOSAL
(1) Federal Care Worker Program
To replace the Caregiver “pilot project”, the government should create a new Federal Workers Program for Care Workers that provides landed status upon entry for Care Workers and our families.
Care Workers should be able to seek employment in Canada through the national job bank. Employers seeking Care Workers can use the job bank to find Care Workers employees. This would take away the need for third-party recruiters / job agencies and the thousands of dollars they charge us to get a job.
(2) Immediate reforms
Care Workers – like us – who are already in Canada and those workers that will continue to arrive until the new Federal Care Worker Program is put in place also need changes:
- Care Workers should able to apply for Permanent Residency (PR) after 1 year of work ( or 1,950 hours): Currently we have to work 2 years while 1 year is the standard for most other permanent immigration programs in Canada;
- All Care Workers must get open work permits and labour mobility: Care Workers currently can only work for the employer listed on our permits, which makes it extremely difficult to leave bad bosses or, in the case of elder care, when employers pass away;
- The new educational requirements should be removed: Care Workers are required under the current pilot program to have completed 1-year of Canadian post-secondary equivalent education to apply for PR – but we are not allowed to or able to study while working;
- The English language test prior to permanent residency should be removed: New English language requirements were introduced in the pilot program, but no free English classes exist;
- The new caps that allow only 2,750 PR applications each year in each caregiving stream should be removed: There are over 5,500 Care Workers coming to Canada in the childcare stream each year, the discretionary caps on PR applications means that at least half of us will not be able to apply even after completing all the requirements;
- The permanent residency backlog should be resolved: Thousands of Care Workers have been waiting for up to 10 years to reunite with their families because no one’s looking at their application;
- Spouses and children should be allowed to join us with open work and study permits of their own: This is the norm for many other temporary immigration programs and it results in improved health and stronger families rather than years of forced separation;
- Remove the second medical that is required when applying for permanent residency. This change was sneaked in the pilot project and adds unnecessary financial barriers and delays; and
- Section 38(1)(c) of the IRPA (“Medical Inadmissibility” rules) should be repealed because it denies PR to an entire family if even one member of the family has a disability.