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Foreign live-in caregivers demand Canadian permanent residency rights

Caregiver Sandra Segura, right, who has two children back home in Mexico, takes care of Zidra Fobel, 4, left, and James Fobel, 2, centre, in Toronto on October 9, 2014. Canadian nannies are demanding that proposed changes to caregiver immigration include permanent residency on arrival.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

Sandra Segura left her home and her family in Mexico two years ago to work as a live-in caregiver for a Toronto couple.

She devotes long hours helping to raise the family's two young children. She sees it as important work, and she loves her job. Her presence allows the kids' mother to work full time, like thousands of other Canadian women who can advance their careers because they have caregivers, she said.

Ms. Segura misses her husband and two sons immensely, but will soon reach the 24 months of employment required to apply for permanent residency in Canada. Still, it will be another three years before her family can join her. It is a high price, but she is willing to pay it for a future in this country.

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Now, she and many other caregivers are concerned the federal government will introduce legislative changes that could make it harder for nannies to become permanent residents. Ms. Segura joined a coalition of caregivers in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver on Thursday demanding that caregivers be granted permanent residency upon arrival in Canada.

(What is the Temporary Foreign Worker Program? Read The Globe's easy explanation)

"We take care of children, the sick and the elderly," she said in a statement. "We deserve to take care of our own kids and parents, too, and that means we want to come here as immigrants with our families, not as temporary workers with few rights."

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has held consultations across the country over the past several months about the future of the live-in caregiver program (LCP), which has brought in 4,000 to 8,000 caregivers a year over the past five years. Representatives of the advocacy group Caregivers Action Centre were at those consultations, and say the ideas being floated did not include granting permanent residency upon arrival.

They said the government is looking at replacing the current pathway to permanent residency and with a system that would invite eligible caregivers who had completed 24 months of employment to apply under other immigration streams, such as the Canadian Experience Class.

Language and education requirements could become more stringent, according to the advocates. That blow would be softened by a provision to scrap the current requirement that caregivers live with their employers, a response to allegations that nannies were being mistreated in some homes.

Caregivers say those changes do not address the fundamental problem of the workers' temporary status.

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"Caregiving is important and valuable work. It must be dignified and celebrated with permanent residency upon arrival," said Renel Reyes of the Caregivers Action Centre.

Mr. Alexander's office would not comment on the speculation. The minister said in June, as part of sweeping changes to the temporary foreign worker program, that he planned to consider changes to the LCP, which his colleague Jason Kenney suggested had become a sort of family reunification program for Filipino-Canadians.

"We're looking at a variety of options, but – at this point – no decisions have been made in regards to potential changes to the LCP," Mr. Alexander's spokeswoman said on Thursday. "We value the contributions made by caregivers across Canada, and under our government, there will always be a caregiver program available to those who wish to make a permanent connection to our country. If and when we have something to announce, we will."

Pura Velasco, a spokeswoman for the Caregivers Action Centre, said Canada needs to address its shortage of care workers.

"So that caregiving work is sustainable, not disposable," Ms. Velasco said. "We are appealing to what's just and fair."

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About the Author
Demographics Reporter

Joe Friesen writes about immigration, population, culture and politics. He was previously the Globe's Prairie bureau chief. More

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