Filipino Families Feeling the Pinch
A couple of recent cases have highlighted some heartbreaking situations with respect to the Caregiver Program (formerly the Live-in Caregiver Program). Families trying to hire overseas caregivers are frustrated at having to pay $1,000 along with the application and wait months for a response, only to have the application rejected by visa officers who don’t believe the person will leave Canada at the end of the work term.
It’s a sad situation.
Take, for example, Surrey, British Columbia resident Eleanor Tarun, who applied to have her brother, a qualified caregiver from the Philippines, come to Canada to help take care of her family when her maternity leave ends.
Tarun followed all the rules, including hiring a nanny agency for almost $800 to help her advertise the job locally and guide her through the process. Under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program — which, since 2014, has included caregivers — employers must advertise positions locally before looking overseas.
But the application was rejected. “You have not satisfied me that you would leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for your stay,” said a letter from the government.
A little history. Over the summer of 2014, the then Employment Minister Jason Kenney, who had previously served as Immigration Minister, said that something needed to be done about the Live-in Caregiver Program. Why? According to Kenney, the “out of control” program had “mutated” into a program of family reunification.
Then and now, such comments and beliefs ought not to be relevant. If a family proves the need for care, the blood relationship to the caregiver is irrelevant. Indeed, other things being equal, who would you rather have caring for your family members, including your kids? A brother, sister, cousin, aunt or uncle, or a complete stranger?
At the same time as implementing the intention to leave Canada requirement in specific cases, the government is stating that it also wants caregivers to be provided with the opportunity to become permanent residents, with an admission target of 22,000 new caregiver permanent residents for this year alone. Sounds like a mixed message to me.
For applicants, families, and communities alike, it is a confusing mess.
The biggest losers, in terms of specific communities, are Filipino families that have a presence in Canada. Filipinos make up the lion’s share of international caregivers in Canada. It is also worth noting that in 2014 the Philippines was the top source country for new Canadian immigrants, ousting China and India to claim the top spot. In the first year of the Express Entry immigration selection system, the Philippines was the second-top source country of invited candidates in terms of country of citizenship, representing 12.6% of all invited candidates over the course of 2015.
Putting two and two together, it is natural that if one of the top source countries for new permanent residents also happens to be the country most caregivers in Canada come from, it will follow that in some situations Filipino residents of Canada will wish to have a family member come to Canada as a caregiver. In that situation, the family should be supported, not rejected.
The Caregiver Program and Canada’s Family Class Sponsorship programs have allowed many Filipinos to arrive, transition to permanent resident status and, in many cases, sponsor family members to join them in Canada. Within the broader Filipino community in Canada, we have observed success after success of small communities that have flourished across the country.
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program should be for businesses that face local labour shortages. It is a program that should aim to help Canadian businesses be successful. It should not be an umbrella program that also includes a mom and dad trying to operate a household.