It is no secret that the live in caregiver program is a hot topic nowadays. The local TV and newspapers establishments have picked up several sensational stories to highlight the nanny industry.
First there was the process of how caregivers enter Canada and with that came an investigation on recruiters who charge thousands of dollars for jobs that do not exist. Now, the hot button seems to be the plight of caregivers who are already in Canada.
With that we are seeing front page articles in newspapers day after day describing how employers are treating their nannies and in some cases how nannies are working without work permits.
The media coverage is interesting, entertaining and positive. But for anyone who is involved within the Filipino community and or who has experience working with caregivers, the highlighted stories are nothing new.
At present, a local MP is accused of hiring a nanny with no work permit. This is nothing new as many caregivers do so between jobs. The live in caregiver program has been in existence for many years and the problems of the program have been ongoing for years. Why did it take so long for the government to start listening to a mystery?
In reality, the live in caregiver program has been broken for years. On November 2, 2004, an article appeared in the Toronto Star claiming stating that the then MP Judy Sgro was committed to changing the system. MP Judy Sgro, stated that the LIC program was “under review.” She said, “I don’t want anyone being exploited or ill-treated.” But that was over four years ago, the government has done nothing and the abuses that have been been ongoing for years.
So what is the solution? To abolish the entire program?
I say no as the live in caregiver program is needed to help both workers and employers who require full time care.
A more logistic and beneficial approach would be to issue work permits to live in caregivers fro a period of three years (as they do now) but that it not be employer specific.
In other words, the applicant (for example in Manila) applies at the Canadian Embassy in Manila for a work permit and must qualify under the regular statutory requirements.
Once approved, the applicant is issued a three year work permit to work in Canada only as a live in caregiver for any employer. The applicant is then free to come to Canada to work for any employer he/she wishes.
After accumulating 24 months of employment within the three years, the applicant then applies for permanent residence as they do now.
In my opinion, the above proposal is a no-brainer and will eliminate all the problems that we are having now. In particular:
1. No “ghost employer” problem – the applicant does not need to rely on getting that initial employer in Canada to sponsor them to obtain the work permit.
2. No more paying thousands of dollars to agencies abroad – similiarly, agencies cannot charge these workers abroad thousands of dollars to find an employer because no employer (LMO) is required to arrive in Canada.
The worker enters Canada with an “open” three year work permit to work as a live in caregiver for anyone they want.
3. No more illegal employment – in my opinion, many caregivers work illegally because they need the money AND it simply takes too long to get a new work permit when a LIC wants to change employers. When one changes employers, there can be a gap of several months and to sit and wait is not productive.
The live in caregiver program needs changes. Time will tell to see if the above proposal passes legislation.
Atty. Henry Moyal is a certified and licensed immigration lawyer in Toronto, Ontario. The above article is general advice only and is not intended to act as legal document. Send your live in caregiver questions to Atty. Moyal by phone at 416-733-3193