Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) gathered in downtown Toronto, Ontario on Mother’s Day to call for immediate changes to the Caregiver Program.
There are Filipinos in every province and territory in Canada. Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, is home to more than 337,760 Filipinos. Canada currently has more than 851,410 Filipinos.
Canada’s growing Filipino community
Filipinos started arriving in Canada in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until the past 25 years that the Filipino population grew by double digits, thanks to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).
The Caregiver Program is a subcategory of the TFWP.
The TFWP allows Canadian employers to hire foreign workers for jobs when they are unable to find local Canadians. Only specific jobs are approved by the Government of Canada, and not all jobs for foreign workers provide a pathway for them to apply for Permanent Residency.
Canada’s Caregiver Program
A notable exception to this would be the Caregiver Program, which allows foreign workers to apply for Permanent Residency after meeting the minimum requirements of the program.
Once approved for Permanent Residency, foreign workers under the Caregiver Program can bring their qualified dependents as Permanent Residents as well.
The now-defunct Live-In Caregiver Program (the precursor to the current Caregiver Program) saw a flood of OFWs coming from such places as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore to work for Canadian employers to care for children, elderly and family members with disabilities.
Filipino Caregivers mark Mothers Day in Canada
CBC News reported that the group set up a table at the corner of Bloor St. W and Spadina Ave. on Mothers Day to bring attention to the challenges foreign workers continue to face under the current Caregiver Program.
One OFW interviewed by CBC News was Jhoey Cruz.
Cruz was an OFW who spent 14 years in Hong Kong before going to Canada under the Caregiver Program 2 years ago. She hasn’t seen her kids in 16 years.
Cruz expressed concern that she would be unable to bring her kids to Canada, since a severe lack of information regarding the current Caregiver Program.
The current Caregiver Program is still considered as a pilot program, and is scheduled to end in November 2019.
Like tens of thousands of foreign workers before her, Cruz came to Canada from Hong Kong having paid thousands of dollars to unregulated third parties who functioned as intermediaries for Canadian employers wanting to hire caregivers.
Recruitment agencies in Canada, unlike in the Philippines, are not subject to government oversight. This resulted in a free-for-all, where foreign workers like Cruz paid thousands of dollars to Canadian citizens posing as recruitment agencies for non-existent jobs.
Upon arrival, foreign workers are forced to work illegally in jobs that do not qualify towards their application for Permanent Residency.
Which is why this group came out on a cold and windy Sunday to help bring the public’s attention to a longstanding problem surrounding foreign workers under the Caregiver Program.
Caregiver Program pilot programs to end in November
The Government of Canada’s immigration arm, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has set a cap of 5,500 applications for the Caregiver Program in its current iteration.
Recently, IRCC announced that the cap will remain at 5,500 and that OFWs will have an easier time in applying for Permanent Residency.
IRCC also said that open Work Permits will be given to family members if they qualify for pre-approved Permanent Residency.
In a statement emailed to CBC News, IRCC said: “We made a commitment to improve pathways to permanent residency for caregivers and our new system delivers on that promise. We made a commitment to improve pathways to permanent residency for caregivers and our new system delivers on that promise.”
For foreign workers who still have Work Permits under the now-defunct Live In Caregiver Program, IRCC will continue to accept applications until June 4.
Advocates demand PR upon arrival
Foreign worker advocate organizations such as the Caregivers Action Centre aren’t impressed. They are calling for legislation to grant immediate Permanent Residency for foreign workers and their family members upon arrival to Canada.
Representatives from the Caregivers Action Centre, some of whom were caregivers themselves, blame unrealistic requirements that prevent foreign workers from applying for Permanent Residency, including language and education.
Former caregivers want the Government of Canada to lower the minimum language, education and work experience requirements to allow more OFWs to apply for Permanent Residency faster.
Caregiver advocates also want IRCC to grant foreign workers under the Caregiver Program immediate Permanent Residency. Advocates say that this is the least the Government of Canada can do for them in return for taking care of Canada’s children, elderly and disabled.
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