December 11, 2009

CANADA: It will soon be easier for live-in caregivers from abroad to obtain residency

. VANCOUVER, British Columbia / The Vancouver Sun / Health / Seniors / December 11, 2009 By Norma Greenaway, Canwest News Service The Toronto and Vancouver areas are among the major destinations for foreigners, most of whom are from the Philippines, who are hired to work as live-in caregivers for children and disabled and elderly Canadians. Photograph by: Mario Tama / Getty Images, National Post OTTAWA — Domestic caregivers recruited from abroad could find it easier to obtain permanent resident status in Canada under new federal rules being announced Saturday. The live-in caregivers, who must pass a medical test to be admitted to Canada in the first place, also will no longer have to undergo a second medical examination when applying to become permanent residents. The new medical standard was spurred by the heartbreaking tale of a caregiver who developed cancer while working in Canada and her painful fight to stay here. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will announce the changes at a news conference in Toronto. The Toronto and Vancouver areas are among the major destinations for foreigners, most of whom are from the Philippines, who are hired to work as live-in caregivers for children and disabled and elderly Canadians. The proposed new rules, which were outlined to Canwest News Service, are designed to address growing unhappiness over how caregivers are treated under the federal Live-In Caregiver Program. The program, which dates back to 1992, is widely seen as ineffective in protecting caregivers from such abuse as being forced to work unacceptably long hours, having their passports withheld and being forced to perform duties beyond care giving. The changes fall short of what many caregiver advocates have been demanding. Some argue, for example, caregivers should be granted permanent residency status as soon as they arrive so they are not so vulnerable to abuse by employers. Rather than agreeing to immediate residency, the government says it's willing to let caregivers apply for permanent resident status earlier than is currently the case. As it stands now, they must work for two years as live-in caregivers within the first three years of coming to Canada before they are eligible to apply. Under the new rule, live-in caregivers would be eligible to apply once they have worked 3,900 hours, or the equivalent of working a standard workweek over two years. The new rule acknowledges the reality that many caregivers work a lot of overtime, and, therefore, will be able to rack up the hours required for residency much sooner than two years. The government also proposes to extend the deadline for completing the work requirement to four years from three years — a change that recognizes caregivers' work can be interrupted by such developments as job loss or pregnancy. Permanent residency is important because it makes it easier for the caretakers to then bring their families to Canada. The elimination of the second medical test proves the campaign by the late Juana Tejada, a caregiver in Toronto, got the attention of the powers that be. Tejada, who developed colon cancer after she started working in Canada, failed the medical test needed for permanent residency. She was told to leave Canada on grounds she was a burden to the health system. In the end, she won the right to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, but Kenney says the case of Tejada, who died in March, exposed a problem that must be corrected. More than 100,000 foreign workers have come to Canada under the live-in caregiver program since 1992, including 12,878 admitted last year. Other changes require employer contracts to spell out employer-paid benefits, as well as the job duties, hours of work, overtime and the terms under which a caregiver can resign or be fired. The government also said it will set up a live-in caregiver hotline for those who need urgent help. The rule changes will become final after a 30-day consultation period, beginning December 19. [rc] © Copyright (c) Canwest News Service