93% of Caregivers in Canada are Filipinos
Live-in caregivers in
Canada, 93 percent of whom are Filipino women are themselves victims of
sexual and physical abuse, workplace harassment, exploitation and
intimidation. Worse, Canada refuses to sign the United Nations Convention
on the Protection of the Rights and Welfare of all Migrant Workers and
By Edwin C.
- Juliet takes care of two children, prepares and cooks food for a family
of four, does the laundry and dishwashing, cleans the house, mows the
lawn, does the car wash and shovels snow during winter. She is on call 24
hours a day. She has no relatives in
Canada and sends half of her $600 a month
salary home to her siblings and parents in the Philippines.
Her employer works as
a director of a big advertising agency in Toronto; employer’s wife is a
corporate executive. On weekends, her employer lends her to a next of kin
to help with the laundry and watch two kids.
Yet Juliet, 26, is
college graduate from the
Philippines. Well-mannered and
coming from very religious parents, she is one among those trapped by
unforeseen circumstances into Canada’s acronym for modern-day slavery –
The Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP).
Juliet was duped into
paying US$5,000 by an unregulated recruitment agency. After arriving in
Toronto, she learned from the placement agency that the man who was going
to hire her was fictitious and that she has to look for an employer
herself. With her Middle East work savings almost gone and nobody to turn
to for support, she accepted a job offer from her present employer. Her
dream of a better life in Canada has, thus, turned into a nightmare.
Canada’s image as
world class by its supporters is being tarnished by its treatment of
caregivers and migrant workers. Here’s why.
Canada’s treatment of its caregivers
In a Conference on
Social Justice last Oct. 30 at the Metro Hall in Toronto, Philip F.
Kelley, PhD, said the live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) was introduced into
Canada’s immigration policy to fill the acute shortage of domestic workers
in Canada and to provide childcare alternatives for well-off Canadian
families. Under the LCP, a live-in caregiver is deemed to be a person who
provides childcare, senior home support care or care of the disabled
without supervision in a private household in Canada in which the person
In truth, however,
the live-in caregivers, 93 percent of whom are Filipino women are,
themselves victims of sexual and physical abuse, workplace harassment,
exploitation and intimidation. Worse, Canada adamantly refuses to sign the
United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights and Welfare of
all Migrant Workers and their Families.
The Art. 11 of the UN
Convention provides that, “No migrant worker or member of his family or
her family shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment, (Article 10); No migrant worker or member of his
or her family shall be held in slavery or servitude; No migrant worker or
member of his or her family shall be required to perform forced or
chair of the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada (NAPWC), said
that the Canadian Government’s continuing refusal to sign the UN
Convention “concretely manifests its culpability in condoning rampant
cases of abuse and human rights violations committed against
Impact on the Filipino community
In a symposium held
at Palmerston Library in Toronto last Nov. 27, entitled “The Live-in
Caregiver Program: Its impact on the Filipino Community” hosted by the
Philippine Women Centre and the Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa
Canada-Toronto (Alliance of Filipino Youth in Toronto), Diocson noted that
the stated objective of the LCP “is to meet labour market shortage of
live-in caregivers in Canada, giving qualified caregivers the opportunity
to work and eventually apply for permanent residence in Canada.”
Diocson said the two
fundamental pillars of the program are “the mandatory live-in requirement
and temporary immigration status. These two are the seeds that bring forth
numerous cases of abuse, exploitation and human rights violations heaped
upon the caregivers.”
done with Status of Women in Canada in 1999, the NAPWC and the Philippine
Women Centre of British Columbia revealed that there is ample evidence of
abuse of women under the LCP, Diocson said. “These are all forms of
physical, verbal and emotional abuse, including rape such as the Mustaji
Case and one woman raped by her employer on the day of arrival in Canada,”
“The online auction
of a Filipina domestic in the Montreal Gazette together with ovens and
refrigerators created an uproar that forced one member of the Canadian
Parliament to denounce it in the House of Commons,” Diocson said.
Abuse comes in other
forms, Diocson explained. “Many women were terminated from employment if
they are found to be pregnant, told to abort by employer or be deported.
Suicide attempts were also documented. One PWC member is now back in the
Philippines after attempting suicide,” she revealed.
“Systemic racism and
discrimination are evidently manifested by denial of access to basic
benefits, including denial for Canadian-born children, subsidized housing,
employment insurance, child tax benefits, healthcare, legal aid, education
and settlement services,” she also said.
There are also
growing impatience and frustrations created by bureaucratic rules causing
the de-skilling of professional migrant workers. “The case of Filipino
nurses doing domestic work is a classical example of this de-skilling
under this program,” Diocson said. “Since they could not obtain points
under the immigration program as skilled workers, Filipino nurses are
forced to enter the program. And despite the nationwide nursing shortage,
they are not permitted to get out of the LCP program, and apply to
practice their profession.” Once they are out of the program, they have
already lost more than two years of professional nursing practice making
it difficult, if not impossible for them to get back into the profession.
Long years of
separation from their families also take its toll on the caregivers.
Domestic workers are not allowed to bring families here upon arrival. As a
result, couples and children are estranged from each other because of the
extended separation. However, a stripper from a European country was
recently fast-tracked by Canadian Immigration officials and granted
permanent residence status under a rather unknown “Stripper Program.” CIC
shut down this program last month after being criticized and condemned by
government and the Canadian public.
are considered one of the highly-educated and the fourth largest visible
minority community in Canada. However, Filipinos are extremely
marginalized and vulnerable. Those working as caregivers are threatened by
deportation and intimidations by unscrupulous employers when they complain
about labor exploitation and other abuses. Fear and intimidation are being
used to silence those who wish to come out with their stories.
“Canada must be
ashamed of its treatment of caregivers,” says Ms. Diocson. “This country
touts itself as a democratic country that respects and upholds human
rights. But look at what it is doing to its caregivers. It is an
embarrassment for Canada to continue with its Live-in Caregiver program.
The mandatory live-in requirement is Canada’s 20th Century modern-day
Philippine government’s labor export policy
Diocson said that
quelling social unrest, dollar remittances to services the huge debt and
to arrest problems that arise from rising unemployment under the Macapagal-Arroyo
government are the three main reasons for Philippine government’s labor-export
by migrant workers worldwide amounted to $8-$10 billion this year.
consulates with few exceptions are accused of not doing anything to solve
problems of migrant workers. Overseas workers are wondering why there is
absence of support services to migrant workers.
remittances, Migrante International is asking where insurance money paid
by overseas workers to Overseas Workers Agency (OWA) such as airfare,
compensation to families and others went.
Fidel Ramos used funds of OWA during his tenure. The expose’ prompted his
secretary of labor to resign,” Diocson said.
Diocson also noted
that provinces such as Negros Occidental where huge tracts of land are
concentrated in the hands of a few are luring many women to apply as
Addressing the fear
that the scrapping of the Live-in Caregiver Program would force Canada to
look elsewhere, Diocson said that fear remains only a threat. “The way the
review is going, the government position is to satisfy the demands of the
advocates and middle and upper class Canadians to make the program better.
It is closely tied to the National Day Care Program. Other countries are
not interested. People in Europe have different lifestyles. Nurses in
Australia and Europe are better treated by their governments compared to
the Philippines. If given a choice, who wants to be a domestic worker and
a live-in caregiver? Canada has this program because it can dominate women
in third world countries,” she said.
Diocson called for
the scrapping of the LCP. “Domestic workers should be allowed to come as
immigrants so that they can integrate immediately into the Canadian
cultural mosaic. Pending the scrapping of LCP, fundamental changes are
needed in the program among which are the removal of the mandatory live-in
requirement and the granting of Permanent Residency (PR) status upon
recommendations are the removal of the $975 head tax, allowing arrival
with family members, granting of PR status independent of family, granting
of immediate open visa, removal of discriminatory barriers to access
social services and the promotion of full access to settlement services.
The NAPWC chair also
brought forward recommendations on de-skilling which include the granting
of full occupation points to nurses, allowing nurses under LCP to access
other immigration streams (such as PNP), prevent de-skilling and work
towards full recognition and accreditation.
Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ) is an alliance of multi-sectoral
organizations in Canada is also preparing to submit a policy brief on the
Live-in Caregiver Program reflecting these concerns. A delegation from
CASJ and other affiliate organizations will present and discuss these
concerns with the officials of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada on
the occasion of its current review of the Program in a round table
discussion in Ottawa next month. Bulatlat
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