In the past months, the federal government has signaled that it will overhaul the Live-in Caregiver
Program (LCP) in response to alleged concerns that the program is “out of control” and has “mutated” into a
family reunification program.
Local caregiver groups say the changes might include the elimination of the program altogether and given that
the government has only engaged in “closed door consultations” – they are worried any changes will only
worsen the situation of live-in caregivers. And that in effect, the government will be re-shaping the future of
the program without consulting the communities that will be most impacted by the proposed changes.
Since the program’s inception, foreign workers, mostly women of colour from developing countries have come
to Canada to help raise Canadian families and provide invaluable, expert care for our children, our elderly and
our loved ones with disabilities.
But the program is harrowing for live-in caregivers and the long years of separation from their families is
“The program causes stress and anxiety for live-in caregivers and their families due to the uncertainty of
becoming permanent residents after two years of working and living in their employers’ homes,” says Julie
Diesta of the Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights.
In reality, many live-in caregivers are separated from their families for five to eight years because permanent
residence applications take so long to process.
Abella Morales, a live-in caregiver and Nilda Pacris, a former live-in caregiver agree. “I’ve missed many of my children’s milestones already.
Three weeks ago, my youngest daughter had surgery and my heart just broke when I saw her on the webcam crying.
I wanted to hug her but I couldn’t,” said Morales, who has been separated five years from her family and is also a Migrante-BC member.
Pacris, a member of West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association, added that “family separation is so painful.
Kids grow up, they are strangers to you by the time they can come to Canada.”
Along with the long years of separation, live-in caregivers also face exploitation, abuse and violations of
employment standards like long working hours, unpaid work and unpaid overtime are often not reported by
caregivers because they fear losing their jobs, the roof over their heads and the chance of becoming permanent
residents in Canada.
The real concerns voiced by live-in caregivers, their families and their employers underlie the urgent need
for reform of the LCP. However, any reform has to be guided by these concerns and the changes have to be led
by the individuals who have lived through the program and those who continue to do so today.
The government should meaningfully consult with live-in caregiver communities. If they do so, they will hear
what the community has demanded for decades: to be granted permanent residence status upon arrival and the
abolition of the live-in requirement of the program. These changes will eliminate many of the barriers and
challenges live-in caregivers encounter and will result in a fairer family care policy, one that does not transfer
the cost of care to those undertaking the care.