In April 2010, the entire Live-In Caregiver industry was turned upside down and the federal immigration program was rendered almost unrecognizable.  There is no question that abuses of the LCP were widespread and rampant, and that changes were needed.  However, what happened next seemed to be a knee-jerk reaction; all of the onus was shifted to the employer and caregivers were now going to be provided better work environments, faster processing and increased protection under the program.

1 1/2 years later, we are taking a look back and discussing ways to move forward for actual protection because, let’s face it.. we are worse off than we were before.  Double the processing times, on average, for caregivers and families in regards to LMOs, work permits, initial PR assessment (open work permits), final Permanent Residency and family reunification.  Abusive agencies and families moving to a “black market” unscrupulous industry.  Worse than that, the Conservative Immigration Minister has been silent on the issue after rallying the Filipino Canadian community to provide overwhelming support for his party in the last Federal election.

Today we met with a foreign Live-In Caregiver who has been put through the ringer and her story is shocking and shows exactly why agencies need to be regulated and enforcement needs to be taken seriously.  We’d like to share her story with you.

After working in the United Kingdom for 6 years, this nanny heard the stories of a good life in Canada and decided to come here to improve her skills and settle in one of the greatest countries in the world.  What happened next could well have tarnished that image in her mind, but instead she remains positive and says “the past is the past.. we have to move forward.”

Recruited to Ontario by a Toronto-based agency, the nanny accepted a job offer and left the UK to work for a seemingly nice family outside of the GTA.  After a year, she was told they were relocating, which they did often, and the nanny decided not to move with them.  The employer, a police officer, defaced the nanny’s work permit in anger by writing INVALID on it, which worried the nanny immensely.  Despite this encounter, she went back to the agency the brought her to Canada to find a job.

When the nanny went back to her agency, she was told they didn’t have any employers willing to hire in Ontario, which is common for companies that deal only with overseas recruitment.  She was shipped out to British Columbia without speaking to the new family and without viewing any sort of contract for the employment arrangement.  Upon arrival, she was shocked to realize that she would be making $2 less per hour than her job in Toronto due to the difference in minimum wages between the provinces.  Of course, her agency did not inform her of this.  The nanny may well have stayed with the family if the original promises of LMO and work permit paperwork processing were adhered to.  Unfortunately no paperwork was done and she was in a foreign country with no job, no family, no friends and no place to go.

Having been left to fend for herself, this nanny connected with a family in B.C. who took her in and provided food and shelter.  She helped look after their children and the household as a favour because she had absolutely nowhere else to go and could not find a job through her agency based in Toronto.  In exchange, this family provided her reference; after almost 2 years in Canada with three different families, this character reference would be the only one she acquired despite her hard work.  Of course, she eventually had to leave because she needed full time paid work to support herself but she will be forever grateful to this family for taking her in and providing her assistance.

Desperate to find a new job, she broke ties with her Toronto-based agency, despite threats from them saying she could only work with them because they brought her to Canada.  Her next agency encounter would not be much better of an experience for her though.  After contacting a local BC agency, she was put into a job with a family without first meeting the agency or the family at all.  To this day, she has never met any representative from the agency, never had an in-person interview and received few details of the job before she was placed there.

Being a smart foreign caregiver in Canada, the nanny asked about her LMO and work permit paperwork and the agency indicated that they don’t retain an immigration consultant because they don’t want to charge their families more money.  The families are left to do the paperwork on their own, probably with a bit of instruction from the agent, but as is common with companies who don’t retain the proper individuals to process the now very complicated immigration documents, the family failed to produce an LMO and she had to leave the family.

Coming back to the Toronto area, she attempted to find a job on her own through online services but she was exposed to the endless “trials” that unscrupulous agent and employers arrange.  The job was not secure, no papework was processed, but this time she learned quickly and left the job after only a few weeks.

This story not only underlines the fact that absolutely nothing has changed in the federal Live-In Caregiver Program, except for good employers paying more money to follow the rules.  Nannies are still being abused, families are still receiving poor information and guidance from rogue agencies, and those who are trying to adhere to the new regulations are finding  it very difficult when competing with the “black market” agencies and families.

A reputable agency could have shown the nanny in this story that…

- Families cannot take or deface your work permit; that is your document to have
- Agencies cannot force you to work strictly with them despite what threats they make
- Nannies and caregivers have the right to see their contracts before they start to work
- Agencies should be open and accessible to nannies for assistance and guidance
- Agents who never meet you, despite being in the same city, have no level of screening

We question how any caregiver agency can refer applicants to their clients without meeting them, or at least seeing them via video messaging, and still call themselves reputable.  While the nanny in this story is a fabulous person and employee, the agency puts their family at risk and shows no level of screening to either the employer or employee.

Our suggestion, which is shared by the Association of Caregiver and Nanny Agencies (ACNA) Canada, is to regulate agencies and enforce business practices throughout the industry so that the abuses of the Live-In Caregiver Program are stopped.  Immigration Minister Jason Kenney would much rather see agencies completely wiped off the map, but left to its own without any regulation, the industry will only experience more widespread abuse including lack of paperwork processing, poor job standards, and no support for the nannies or families who are trying to do things right.

We urge the Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to start talking about the LCP again, help ACNA regulate agencies in Canada and start responding to the caregivers about the exorbitant processing times they are experiencing!

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