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Immigration Newsweek

By Attorney Henry Moyal


As many of our readers have heard. The Federal government has plans to review the current abuse and bureaucracy that has tainted the live in caregiver program. The following article appeared in the Toronto Star on November 2, 2004 (reporters M. Leong/S. Simmie)

Nannies to be protected, Sgro vows
Caregiver program under review, minister says

`I don’t want anyone being exploited’ in Canada

Canada’s citizenship and immigration minister says the government is working to ensure that nannies are better protected from exploitation.

Minister Judy Sgro said the Live-In Caregiver Program — under which thousands of foreign nannies enter the country to work every year — is under review. A working group with Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and Status of Women Canada is looking to prevent the kinds of abuse outlined in a Star series examining how some employers and agencies treat their nannies in this country.

“Anything that comes out of this review that makes this program more effective, we’re certainly looking forward to those results coming in,” Sgro said yesterday in an interview. “I don’t want anyone being exploited or ill-treated in Canada … that comes here with certain hopes and certain dreams.”

The series revealed how some nannies are exploited by unregulated agencies that charge them thousands of dollars for a placement — and sometimes don’t deliver on the jobs they’ve promised. The Star also found that some nannies are financially and even sexually abused by their employers.

Sgro had a message for nannies who are being abused: “No one should be afraid of losing their immigration status. If the employer is not living up to their end of the agreement or the provincial labour codes, they should not hesitate to contact HRSDC and seek out another employer.”

She added that the Live-In Caregiver Program is worthwhile and meets the needs of many Canadians.

Chris Bentley, Ontario’s labour minister, said he will work with Ottawa to explore ways of better caring for nannies, adding he would look into the licensing of agencies. “Nobody should be exploited. Period. In the next couple of days, we’ll be contacting the respective ministries in Ottawa and exploring how we can address the issue.”

Bentley pointed to initiatives the province has taken in the last several months to benefit foreign workers, such as stepping up enforcement and pushing employment standards awareness. The ministry announced last week it has translated employment standards brochures, which were only available in English and French, into 18 other languages, including Filipino.

Diane Ablonczy, the federal Conservative party’s senior critic for citizenship and immigration, charged Ottawa has failed to care for this vulnerable group of migrants. She said caregivers changing employers sometimes have to wait three months for a work permit.

“If you’ve got someone here without a job and without resources, you have to do something before several months elapse,” she said.

“It is completely against Canadian values … to just abandon (caregivers) when their employment falls through by saying: `You’re here. Sorry you don’t have a job. Maybe in several months we’ll get around to giving you a permit for another employment opportunity.’

“The federal government needs to act more humanely and more expeditiously to protect people.”

Henry Moyal, a Toronto immigration lawyer, said “the travesty of the Live-In Caregiver Program lies with the bureaucracy.”

He said he receives more than a dozen calls a week from live-in caregivers who have problems with their immigration status. Under the federal program, caregivers are given three years to complete 24 months of work — a problematic time frame, he said.

“It is just too hard to meet the deadline with the roadblocks that Canada Immigration sets up,” Moyal said. “In my opinion, the three-year rule should and must be extended, perhaps to four years. In the alternative, permit officers to exercise discretion for extenuating circumstances.”

Despite the flaws with the caregiver program, Pickering resident Mila Villaruz’s worst fear is that it would be scrapped. “The news in the Philippines is that the Canadian government is going to get rid of this program,” she said.

“Thanks to Canada’s Live-in Caregiver Program, thousands of people … who would not have been admitted to Canada … are now either permanent residents or Canadian citizens.”

Villaruz has employed three foreign live-in caregivers since 1996 to help care for her three children and has had family come here through the program.

“The first caregiver was a graduate nurse from the Philippines. She became an immigrant, sponsored and married her fiancé. They both work as registered nurses and … have a daughter who is turning 2 next month.”

Attorney Henry Moyal is a certified and licensed Immigration Lawyer in Toronto, Ontario. The above article is general advice only and not intended to act as a legal document. Send questions in confidence to Balita or to Attorney Moyal by fax, mail or email