Several immigration and human rights lawyers urge caregivers to be cautious in Canada’s new caregiver program, which was enacted last November 30.
A positive change in the caregiver rules is that the live-in arrangement is no longer imposed but is optional for the caregivers and their employers. Through this, caregivers may be better protected from abuse such as working overtime without additional pay or doing tasks outside of child care.
Caregivers are also still tied to labor permits specific to employers.
However, lawyers say that the drawbacks in the caregiver reforms outweigh the benefits. They pointed out that the changes in the requirements may put temporary workers at risk. One of their main issues is the pathway to permanent residency.
Based from the new rules, the number of caregiver applicants to be admitted to permanent residency is now limited to 5,500 each year.
“So workers will not know – entering the program – if they are on the path to permanence or on a merry-go-round to temporariness. It makes their situation much more precarious,” said Faye Faraday, also a lawyer.
They also fear that it will be harder for caregivers to attain permanent residency.
“Not everyone will be able to apply for landed status. So it’s really moving into contractual or guest worker plus the heightening of these requirements so it’s harder now,” said Jane Ordinario, of Migrante BC.
“Certainly, we know that the government has raised both language and educational requirements and with anything, whenever we talk about increased eligibility requirements, we’re talking about also the effect will be limiting access for certain people,” added Ali Li Lim, Executive Director of West Coast Domestic Workers Association.
They warn that this quota may put caregivers in a vulnerable situation.
“If there are no efforts to balance the quota for permanent residency against the quota for incoming work permit holders, there is a very good chance, a high likelihood, that a lot will fall out of status eventually and will become even more vulnerable in the underground economy, because they will be more subject to abuse and exploitation because they have no status,” said Deanna Santos, a lawyer.
For them, what is needed is permanent resident status upon arrival of caregivers.
With report from Cyra Moraleda