Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ)

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CASJ submission to the April 26, 2009 roundtable with immigration minister Jason Kenney

Posted by casjcanada on May 1, 2009

By Hermie Garcia
President
Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ)

The affected caregivers and their advocates have articulated eloquently the recommendations and the basic conditions that must be changed through policy. Basically these may be interpreted to be beneficial to the caregivers alone.

I wish to articulate and emphasize the other side of the picture. These changes that we seek, mainly giving permanent resident status to caregivers, removing the live-in requirement and removing the employer-specific feature – will benefit Canada tremendously.

Why do I say so?

Stories after stories and studies after studies have shown that the temporary status of caregivers is mainly responsible for their being vulnerable to employer abuse and for their being victimized by unscrupulous agencies.

The “carrot” that is promised to them, the permanent resident status, means everything to them.
It means being landed immigrants, it means being reunited with their families, it means escape from poverty in their home country. This means if they can bear exploitation and abuse, in two or three or maybe five years, they can have their dreams realized.

But while they are in limbo, and their problems pile up: they are overworked, they get sick, they are treated as workers without rights, they cannot live anywhere else, they get cheated in their wages, in their tax returns. Some of them are verbally, physically or sexually abused.

In short, they live in fear of more abuse, more exploitation. On top of all these, they are separated from their families, their spouses and children.

There are tens of thousands of live-in caregivers in Canada. Maybe more, much more. There are these many households or homes with mostly unhappy caregivers giving care to Canadian children, elderly and the sick. They could be taking care of hundreds of thousands of Canadians in these homes.
Imagine unhappy caregivers, living in fear of more abuse, overwork and uncertain future, extremely lonely because they are separated from their families.

Do we believe, these caregivers will be able to do quality work, quality caregiving to these hundreds of thousands of Canadians in their homes?

Imagine the impact these unhappy scared caregivers would have on these countless Canadian children, elderly and the sick. Don’t we think the untenable working conditions would reflect in the way they care for these Canadians? They practically constitute an extremely stressed workforce in whose hands we give the care of the future generation of Canadians, our elderly generation who have contributed a lot to our nation, and to the sick who deserve the best of our health care.

The good that we do these caregivers, by treating them as equals, equal residents in Canada, equal workers who help build the nation and pay taxes to help our economy grow, is not only good for them. It is good for Canada, for our children, for our elderly, for our sick family members.

If we can entrust the most vulnerable members of our family and our society to the caregivers, why can’t we trust them with immigrant status? To paraphrase a Canadian writer, we must ask why do we lower the standard for human rights to people just because we’re offering them something that may be of benefit to them in the future?

It is in this light, Mr. Minister, that we also want you to see this issue. We do not come here only to ask for benefits for our caregivers. We come here also to emphasize this is what this caregivers issue is all about. It is about Canada and its responsibility uphold its tradition of equality, human rights and social justice. For the good of Canada, its people and everyone who help build the nation.

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