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Pinoy Abroad

Group scores Canada’s live-in caregiver program

December 4, 2008 12:26pm
MANILA, Philippines - To support her child, 34-year old single mother Lilibeth Agoncillo has worked for three years under Canada’s Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP), only to be deported for not meeting the required 24-month live-in work within her stay.

The Mindoro-born Filipino worker came to Vancouver in April 2005 under Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration’s LCP. However, after three years of working in there, she will now be deported together with her one-year-old Canadian-born baby.

According to Siklab-B.C., a group of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Canada, Agoncillo and her child were victims of “unfair and unjust government policies."

“Like many other live-in caregivers, Agoncillo changed employers several times and because of many bureaucratic hurdles, delays in processing her work permit and a lack of information, she fell through the cracks of the unfair and often confusing immigration system," said Glecy Duran, chairperson of Siklab-B.C. in a statement on Thursday.

Duran said that Agoncillo’s situation is not unique.

“Canada’s LCP is a trap for many women workers. The exploitative and restrictive policies of the program mean that many workers end up without status in Canada and are ordered deported. To add salt to the wound, we are also not readily assisted by the local Philippine Consulate to return home," she said.

Grassroots Women, a women’s organization in Canada, said that they have met other women like Agoncillo who are facing deportation despite having Canadian-born children.

“These kinds of situations will only increase as the Canadian government continues to rely on this exploitative program instead of providing equitable solutions to Canada’s child-care crisis," said Merryn Edwards of Grassroots Women in the same statement.

She added that the Canadian government talks about modernizing Canada’s immigration system, but actually intends to expand the use of temporary foreign worker programs as a “cheap way of filling labor needs with no regard for the rights of workers."

“If I had known the reality of this racist and anti-woman policy (the LCP), I never would have come here. I want other Filipinos and Canadians to know the reality of the situation here. The Philippine government calls us ‘Modern-Day Heroes’ but we are more like modern-day slaves," said Agoncillo.

It’s the same for professional nurses

The Filipino Nurses Support Group (FNSG), an organization of over 800 nurses in Canada’s provinces of British Columbia and Quebec, has said that the LCP has led Filipino nurses into being made to work as domestic workers and 24-hour home support workers.

“The LCP imports Filipino nurses into a program of modern-day slavery, economic marginalization, de-skilling, and stalled development," it said in a previous statement.

Filipino nurses have come to Canada not to work as registered nurses but as caregivers since the 1990s. Canada changed its Foreign Domestic Movement (FDM), a childcare or nanny program, into the LCP that includes care for elderly and disabled Canadians in 1992.

Under the new program, nurses found it harder to immigrate into the said country as permanent residents, leaving them no choice but to come under the caregiver program.

The nurse’s group said it had documented many Filipino nurses who earn as little as $1.50 or about P70 per hour under the LCP, quite different from British Columbia’s $8 or almost P390 per hour minimum wage.

Moreover, a registered nurse’s starting wage in Canada is supposed to be at $28 or more than P1,350 per hour.

“Filipino nurses under the LCP are stripped of their professional skills, education, and dignity as they cook, clean, provide personal care, and give medications for families wealthy enough who can afford private live-in care," said the FNSG.

The group added that Filipino nurses are discriminated during the accreditation processes, preventing them from practicing their profession as soon as possible.

“Immigration and accreditation barriers that Filipino nurses face purposefully segregate them into a pool of cheap labor," it said.

Meanwhile, FNSG said it will continue to call for the scrapping of the LCP and for the Canadian government to fully recognize Filipino nurses through reciprocity agreements.

Almost 100,000 Filipino women have entered Canada as live-in caregivers, performing childcare, elderly care and other domestic duties in the homes of middle and upper-class Canadians. - GMANews.TV
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