Nannies, Caregivers Ask Filipino Canadians To Vote "Wisely" In The October Elections

September 1, 2015 News
Filipino caregiver Kristina Torres says the Conservative government hasn't kept its promise to improve the caregiver program. Instead, it's killing it.

Filipino caregiver Kristina Torres says the Conservative government hasn’t kept its promise to improve the caregiver program. Instead, it’s killing it.

Nannies and other caregivers urge the 620,000-strong Filipino community not to forget its roots and the interests of those who came after them when they vote in October.

Kristina Torres hopes her 620,000-strong Filipino Canadian community won’t forget their roots — and the compatriots they left behind — when they cast their votes in the October federal election.

The Toronto woman from the Philippines is joining a chorus of past and present foreign caregivers, who are overwhelmingly Filipino, to warn the community about Ottawa’s waning caregivers program, which has been the key immigration avenue to Canada for Filipinos over the past 15 years.

“The government has promised to reduce the backlog, but the changes they made are making things worse,” said Torres, 27, who was let go by her employer in October and has since been struggling. “They made the promise to improve the program and must keep their word.”

Until November, foreign caregivers were bound by the requirements of the old Live-in Caregivers Program, which allowed them to apply for permanent residency after two years of service.

In December, the Conservative government replaced the old program by removing the live-in condition, capping the yearly number of applicants and raising applicants’ English and education requirements.

However, months into the new program, caregivers said the processing time required for their permanent residency has lengthened, and many are now having trouble getting a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) — a certificate that justifies their attaining a job because of a labour shortage.

“There has been no improvement. Our members can’t get the LMIA. If they leave an abusive employer, they will be punished because they need the LMIA to work,” said Johnna Uchi, of Toronto’s Caregivers Action Centre, pleading for all political parties to commit themselves to changing the situation.

“Voters in the Filipino community, and all voters, must vote wisely. Don’t just think of what is happening now to the program, but think of what’s going to happen to the community in the long run.”

Citing the government’s own statistics, Uchi — who came here in 2009 under the caregiver program and is now a permanent resident — said the wait time for immigrant status for caregivers has skyrocketed, from 26 months in February 2014 to 50 months today.

Meanwhile, she said, 90 per cent of the LMIA applications under the new caregiver program are rejected, leaving the impression that Ottawa is slowly “killing” the decades-old program, which offers working Canadian families relief in caring for loved ones.

Torres, who has a nursing degree from the Philippines, came to Canada in 2012 to look after a Guelph family but was let go after six months because her service was no longer needed.

She found another job in Toronto to care for a special-needs child. In December, she was let go, still six months short of meeting the employment hours for permanent status.

In February, she secured a new employer in Richmond Hill, who advertised the job and paid $1,000 for an LMIA. In June, the application was rejected.

“This is so stressful. We all have deadlines to meet to qualify for our permanent residency. The real solution is for the government to give caregivers and temporary foreign workers full status upon arrival,” said a discouraged Torres.

“We are trained to be caregivers. Many of us still work as caregivers after we get our status.”

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s office did not respond to Torstar’s request for comments.