OCASI participated in the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) consultations on the Caregiver Program held in March - April 2018. The consultation gave OCASI the opportunity to raise the many long-standing concerns that caregivers themselves, and OCASI and other civil society organizations have put forward over the years.
In February 2018 IRCC stated on its website that applications for the Caregiver program will no longer be accepted. Caregivers who will not complete 24 months of full-time work experience before November 29, 2019 will not be eligible to apply for permanent residence. The notice came as a complete shock to many across the country and caused confusion and upset among caregivers and allies. Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen subsequently stated via social media that the government is committed to a pathway to permanent residence for caregivers. He said the current program is a pilot and will be assessed for improvements. IRCC later announced that it will be holding consultations on the Caregiver program.
Racialized migrant women overwhelmingly represent the caregivers who enter Canada through the present Caregiver Program (CP) and the previous Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP). The power imbalance between caregivers and their employers favours employers, which in turn increases caregivers’ risk of employer abuse including physical, emotional and sexual violence.
OCASI made the following recommendations in a written submission to IRCC:
1. Grant permanent residence status to live-in caregivers upon arrival in Canada.
Permanent resident status will eliminate much of the vulnerability to exploitation and abuse that caregivers face from employers and recruiters. It will allow them to start to build a new life for themselves and their families more quickly.
The following are recommendations for applicants under the current program, while transitioning to a program that grants permanent residence on arrival:
2. Allow caregivers to work for any employer and not tie their status to one employer.
Caregivers should be allowed an open work permit. This will give caregivers with an abusive employer the ability to leave and pursue other work opportunities without jeopardizing their immigration status.
3. Remove the language requirement in the current program
Remove the present language requirement as a condition of permanent residence. The language requirements that are good enough to allow caregivers to work here should be good enough to let them continue to work as permanent residents.
3. Remove the post-secondary requirement in the current program
Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) eliminated the skills upgrading requirement that was in place under the previous Foreign Domestic Worker Program (FDWP). The FDWP required caregivers to show they have taken courses to upgrade education and skills while working in Canada. This was eliminated in the LCP in recognition of the fact that it was impossible for caregivers to meet the requirement while working full-time as caregivers.
4. Remove the permanent residence application caps for each current caregiver stream
The caps have exerted enormous pressure on caregivers to remain with an abusive employer, for fear of losing work hours and falling back in the completion of requirements for permanent residence.
5. Remove excessive demand provisions in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
The provision results in the denial of permanent residence for the applicant and entire family if any member of the family has a disability or chronic illness. The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in 2017 recommended repeal of this provision.
6. Regularize immigration status for caregivers with precarious immigration status
There is an urgent need for a regularization program for those caregivers who have not been able to gain permanent residence status over the years. Some have worked here for decades in a situation of precarious immigration status.