National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada (NAPWC)
SIKLAB Canada (Advance and Uphold the Struggle of Filipino Workers)
Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada/Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance–Canada (UKPC/FCYA)
December 19, 2009
Progressive Filipino women, workers and youth representing the aggrieved Filipino community maintain that the changes made on the federal government’s live-in caregiver program (LCP) announced by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) Minister Jason Kenney are yet another tactic to justify the continuation and expansion of modern-day slavery program, such as the LCP, in Canada.
The National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada (NAPWC), SIKLAB Canada (Filipino workers organization) and Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada/Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance (UKPC/FCYA) criticize these changes, which are purely technical, and strongly contend that the changes was made to make the racist and anti-woman LCP more palatable to Canadians in order to cover-up the systemic weaknesses inherent in immigration policies and to defend the ongoing overhaul of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), such as the passing of Bill C50 and Bill C45.
The changes which were announced last December 12, 2009 in Toronto and Vancouver include extension of the period of being able to complete the live-in requirement from three years to four years; being able to apply for permanent residency after fulfilling 3,900 hours of work; elimination of the second medical examination when applying for permanent residency; employers covering the live-in caregiver’s travel and medical costs and providing signed contracts that clearly outline work hours, overtime, sick leave and vacation, and that live-in caregivers will be able to obtain emergency work permits within three weeks if they are abused.
“All these changes are only band-aid solutions. The announcement made by Minister Kenney unravels the hypocrisy deeply embedded in CIC. They do not genuinely address the exploitation and oppression of Filipino women under the LCP and will only make life more miserable to this group of already vulnerable temporary workers,” stated Cecilia Diocson, Executive Director of the NAPWC.
Since the implementation of the LCP in 1992 and its predecessor program the Foreign Domestic Movement (FDM), Canada has maintained and continues to uphold the stringent requirements of mandatory live-in requirement for 24 months within 3 years, temporary status and employer-specific contracts – the very fundamental pillars that set the context for the exploitative and oppressive conditions that these women are in.
For over twenty years now, Filipino-Canadians have been steadfast in calling for the scrapping of the LCP. However, for over twenty years, the Canadian government through CIC, has been adamant in its efforts to continue dehumanizing workers because of their status and in maintaining the modern-day slavery of women.
Amidst the slew of changes on the LCP, the NAPWC, SIKLAB and UKPC/FCYA contend that these reforms further expose the chronic crisis in Canadian immigration strategies and policies and the government’s failure to answer the much needed social services of its citizens, such as universal childcare and eldercare programs. The LCP is the de facto national childcare program and it is also being used to pave the way for the increasing privatization of healthcare.
“Minister Kenney is no Santa Claus to thousands of Filipino live-in caregivers,” Diocson continued. “These reforms are an insult to all Canadians because we have a government that fails to stop the violation of human rights of these workers and instead perpetuate violence against women,” she added.
Although many see this program as a way for Filipinos to enter Canada, the realities of the impacts of this program far outweigh the benefits of citizenship. Offering the prize of citizenship has been a classic tactic for CIC, as they dangle a “carrot on a stick” in order to attract and retain temporary workers to fulfill the dirtiest, most difficult and dangerous jobs that no other Canadians would take.
While the federal government was quick to recognize that many live-in caregivers work overtime hours and that under these new changes, they now have the option of racking up their hours towards permanent residency, the provision of being able to apply for permanent residency after completing 3,900 hours is a misnomer and a ploy to deceive live-in caregivers that their time under the LCP is shorter. 3,900 hours still amounts to two years of full-time, regular work.
“The 3,900 hours is no different from working 24 months. This is, in fact, another way of exploiting the cheap labour of these people that will only benefit the employers,” stated Roderick Carreon, National Chairperson of SIKLAB Canada. The mandatory live-in requirement places caregivers under the beck and call of their employers for 24 hours a day. Employers can easily deny the number of hours the women have worked and although they are deemed to be protected under federal and provincial labour laws, there is no way knowing what exactly transpires within the private sphere of the employer’s home.
Many women under the LCP work overtime hours for little or no pay, even after formalizing a set of rules about overtime hours on an employment contract, if at all. Despite the myth that caregivers are “members of the family,” the live-in requirement makes it more favourable to the employers to enjoy the cheap labour of these women.
Furthermore, extending the three-year deadline for completing the work requirement to four years will only lengthen the exploitation of live-in caregivers and lengthen the separation from their families. While CIC poses that this extension widens the window of opportunity for caregivers to apply for permanent residency and accounts for disruptions such as illness, pregnancy or job loss, this extension is a conscious effort on the part of CIC to have these women remain under the LCP even longer.
Presently, live-in caregivers wait 8-12 months to obtain their open work permit. This forces them to stay with their employers for the duration of the wait due to CIC’s processing delays and bureaucratic hurdles. In addition, the extension does not account for delays in paperwork, wherein employers withhold documents necessary for permanent residency applications, such as the record of employment, T4 slips, pay stubs, etc.
In addition, the elimination of the requirement to obtain a second medical examination when applying for permanent residency does not address the fact that majority of live-in caregivers’ ability to access healthcare is tied to their work permits. Many live-in caregivers, who are in between jobs and without valid work permits, are denied access to medicare, forcing them to pay their own health insurance and medical costs.
Carreon stated, “CIC must stop playing games with the lives of thousands of Filipino live-in caregivers. The reforms made on the LCP are a testament of the lack of political will in seriously addressing the demands of temporary workers to abolish the mandatory live-in requirement, to grant them permanent residency upon arrival, and the accreditation of their professional backgrounds. It is clear that the LCP is an employer-driven program and therefore will always be at the best interest of the employers and not the live-in caregivers.”
“A program that is inherently flawed and violent can not, will not and should not be reformed,” asserted Carlo Sayo, National Chairperson of UKPC/FCYA. “As workers, we should not allow Minister Kenney to pit us against each other,” he further stated. The reforms introduced by Minister Kenney is a measure to quell the escalating revelation of tremendous human rights and women’s rights violations that are legalized, authorized and stamped by CIC. Filipino women, workers and youth will remain vigilant in their struggle to end the exploitation and violence of these live-in caregivers as women and as workers.
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