Whither the Live-in Caregiver Program?

By Author: Admin | January 11, 2010

On December 14 2009, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minster Jason Kenney announced proposed changes to the Live-in Caregiver program that are intended to help protect foreign workers on live-in Caregiver work permits:

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Canada+make+easier+live+caregivers+from+abroad+obtain+residency/2331965/story.html

“These important changes help fulfill Canada’s duty to those who care for our young, our disabled and our elderly. The Government of Canada is taking action to protect foreign workers from potential abuse and exploitation,” said Kenney.

One proposed change is that live-in caregivers will not have to undergo a second medical examination at the time that they apply for Canadian permanent residence, as they will have already undergone one prior to their arrival in Canada.  The consequence of only one medical examination would be to allow live-in caregivers to be allowed permanent residence even if they subsequently become a burden on Canada’s health system.

A significant proposed change is that the number of hours caregivers have worked will be counted towards their qualification for Canadian permanent residence, as opposed to number of days. This will ensure that caregivers who work overtime hours will be able to qualify for a permanent resident visa sooner than before.

In addition, caregivers would have four years to complete these work requirements instead of the currently mandated three years.

The problematic change Kenney is proposing involves the obligations Canadian employers of live-in caregivers. Canadian employers will be responsible for the costs of travel to Canada, for medical and workplace safety insurance, as well as for any recruitment fees involved in bringing their live-in caregivers to Canada.  Employment contracts will also have to be more explicit in terms of job duties, hours, benefits and holidays and sick leave.

There is a contest of vulnerabilities in this situation.  Live-in caregivers can be vulnerable to unscrupulous employers whose patronage is a pre-requisite for the caregiver’s obtaining permanent resident status.  Such employers can through concerted efforts or indifference scuttle the permanent resident application of a caregiver.  Mr. Kenney’s quote (above) only addresses the vulnerability of the caregiver, not the persons who are being taken care of: the elderly and children.  Kenney’s proposals may be an attempt to level the playing field too much in favour of caregivers.

It is worth mentioning that the Canadian government has not bothered to implement measures such as a national childcare program.  Elder abuse is a problem in Ontario to the extent that there are televised public service advertisements discussing it.

What will families with working parents do if they cannot afford the airfare, insurance, and immigration lawyer fees required for a live-in caregiver?  There may be no recourse for a Canadian employer who has paid the requisite fees for the caregiver to come to Canada and is faced with a nanny who left for a different job after a few weeks.  Such a financial risk may militate against having a nanny.

Many Canadian immigration lawyers charge at least a couple of thousand dollars for the work permit that allows caregivers a path to Canadian permanent residency.  The pool of potential employers in Canada may be reduced because of this added expense, not to mention the overly legal, formal relationship this would create with the caregiver who would live in their home.  Some women may drop out of the work force to stay home, which may compromise the competitiveness of the Canadian economy.

Anecdotally, the children in my neighbourhood whose parents utilize caregivers are smaller, more emaciated and more glassy-eyed, compared to the children taken care of by a family member. Often, a caregiver sees her job as simply keeping a child out of danger, and placating the child with tasty snacks and passive media like television and video games.  Educating is often not in the job description.  This does not constitute taking care of a child.  The proposed changes would not do anything to address this concern.

Although the live-in caregiver program does not prohibit relatives from being employed as caregivers, the criteria bars persons who do not have a good level of English language ability, and who do not have experience or related education.  This would mean that retired and active grandparents or an aunt from back home may not qualify unless the two aforementioned criteria are met.

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