Foreign caregivers want major reforms to improve conditions, streamline residency
A national coalition of advocacy groups wants major reforms to Canada's foreign caregiver program in hopes of improving working conditions and offering a more reliable path to permanent residency.
A new report published on Sunday features personal stories of hundreds of care workers who have struggled with family separation, difficult, and at times, abusive work environments and a complex bureaucracy.
"Women like us have been coming to Canada for over a century, raising children, taking care of the sick and the elderly, being the backbone of the economy, and yet we are treated like we are temporary," Kara Manso, a co-ordinator with the Toronto-based Caregivers Action Centre, says.
The demands come as the federal government prepares to review pilot programs for foreign care workers that were initially rolled out in 2014 as Ottawa looked to update its policies. They are set to expire in November 2019.
According to the report, the current regime was developed "without consultation, input or direction" from care workers.
"This program is fundamentally flawed and extends the legal basis for exploiting care workers," it says.
The coalition of groups from across Canada are calling for a new federal workers program that offers permanent residency to foreign caregivers as soon as they arrive. That would allow them to bring immediate family members, who the coalition hopes will be offered open work and study permits under a new program.
"Family unity is the norm for many other temporary immigration programs and it results in improved health and stronger families rather than years of forced separation," the report states.
Further, for foreign caregivers already in Canada, the coalition's requests include:
The hard cap on permanent residency applications is currently set at 2,750 for those working under in childcare, and 2,750 for those caring for those with "high medical needs."
"In 2016, 4,861 migrant care workers were issued a new permit in the childcare stream and 5,335 in 2017. This means that nearly half of us that came to Canada in 2017 will be rejected on the basis of the annual quota, despite the promise that if we worked for two years we could apply for permanent residency," the report says.
"We thought we had a promise with Canada. That if we worked hard, even in the face of discrimination and abuse, we would eventually be able to reunite with our families, bring them here and live here safely and with permanent status."