The Live-in Caregiver Program is not a new program. Canada has been bringing in live-in caregivers for over a hundred years. Many Canadians have grandparents and great-grandparents who came to Canada through the program.
In the beginning, caregivers from Britain and Nordic countries were automatically given permanent residency. It was only when Canada started bringing in caregivers from the Caribbean and the Philippines that caregivers and Canadian families joined together to fight for and win the right to automatically apply for permanent residency.
European domesticsWomen from England, Ireland and Finland come to Canada as ‘nannies’, ‘nursemaids’ and ‘governesses.’ Their work is valued, desired and in demand. They are immediately and automatically given permanent residency in Canada.
Post-war demand for domestic workersThe care gap after World War II increases demand for caregivers. The government aggressively recruits women from Barbados and Jamaica to serve as domestic workers. Unlike their Western European counterparts, however, these women were considered ‘reserve labour’ and not given permanent residency.
Caribbean Domestics SchemeUnhappiness with Canada’s exclusionary policies towards Caribbean caregivers leads to the creation of the Caribbean Domestics Scheme. A limited number of caregivers under the program are given the ability apply for permanent residency after one year working in domestic service. However, the women are also subjected to frequent pregnancy tests and are paid less compared to their European counterparts.
Pearson’s White Paper on ImmigrationThe federal government introduces a points-system for immigration, attempting to end racial discrimination and the preference for Europeans in immigration policy.
Care work becomes “disposable”The Temporary Employment Authorization Scheme changes the rules for permanent residency, deeming care work ‘low skill’ and treating live-in caregivers as disposable workers. This new scheme makes it harder for live-in caregivers to qualify under the new rules. Because of the government’s unwillingness to recognize care work as a permanent ongoing need, the system fails to address Canada’s care giving needs.
The Seven Jamaican MothersCanada’s high demand for caregivers leads to immigration officials advising women to not declare their children when entering Canada. Outrage ensues when seven Jamaican mothers are deported simply for following this advice, doing what they were told.
As a result, Canadian families and caregivers join together to fight for caregivers’ right to apply for permanent residency. Protests spread from Vancouver to Ottawa and Montréal. Black community members, migrant care workers, labour activists, faith communities and Canadian families fight for recognition that care work is a permanent need in Canada and that caregivers should have the right to be reunited with their children.
Foreign Domestics MovementDemonstrations, lobbying and activism continue to fight for the rights of migrant care workers. In 1982, activists hand Immigration Minister Lloyd Axworthy thousands of protest letters denouncing the governments policies against caregivers. Mass mobilization leads to the creation of the Foreign Domestics Movement. Caregivers still face exclusionary policies and endure workplace abuse. But it is a first step in granting caregivers the right to apply for permanent residency after working in Canada for 24 months.
The Live-In Caregiver ProgramAfter extensive review of the FDM brought on by continued pressure from Canadians, the government brings in the Live-in Caregiver Program to address the most abusive elements of their policies. The LCP explicitly recognizes care work, an important move towards occupational respect. There are still many issues with the program that encourage abusive working conditions. But the automatic right to apply for permanent residency after 24 months is enshrined.
Minister Alexander considers changes to the LCP as Minister Kenney misleads publicOver 30 years after Canadians and caregivers fought for the right to automatically apply for permanent residency, the federal government starts holding closed-door consultations to eliminate caregivers’ right to apply for permanent residency. This change will reverse all the gains that caregivers have made in Canada.
If you believe that Filipino caregivers should have the same rights that their British and Nordic counterparts had over a century ago, click here to tell your Member of Parliament to oppose the changes.
Source: Ethel Tungohan. (2012) “Debunking Notions of Migrant ‘Victimhood’: A Critical Assessment of Temporary Labour Migration Programs and Filipina Migrant Activism in Canada.” Filipinos in Canada: Disturbing Invisibility, Chapter 7, edited by Roland Sintos Coloma, Bonnie McElhinny, Ethel Tungohan, John Paul C. Catungal and Lisa M. Davidson. University of Toronto Press.
(Featured image source: William James Topley / Library and Archives Canada / C-009652)