We came across this really powerful and revealing article from CaregiversOnline.org that describes the process under which an overseas caregiver gave money to a local Toronto agency for recruitment to Canada.  As most in the local industry should know, but those outside may not, caregivers cannot pay anything for recruitment to Canada and the laws are even tougher in Ontario with the Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act (EPFNA).  This article serves as a strong case for regulation of caregiver agencies, which we support along with the Association of Caregiver and Nanny Agencies Canada (ACNA).  Agencies who have nothing to hide should be willing to be regulated in order to provide a community in which caregivers and families can trust the companies they are working with.  Sadly, for the male caregiver in this story, circumstances become much more difficult due to the overwhelming preference for female nannies and caregivers.  It’s unfortunate that his fellow country-person deceived him, took his money and didn’t hold up their end of the bargain even though they were operating illegally.

Originally posted on CaregiversOnline.org

How much does it cost an applicant to enter Canada as a live-in caregiver (LCP)?

As per new regulations governing the hiring of LCP, all costs should be shouldered by employers but for a suspicious agency like one called Sampaguita International Recruitment Agency, it costs thousands. This, even after the passage of Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act (EPFNA) that prohibits recruiters from charging any fees to foreign live-in caregivers, either directly or indirectly.

In a letter of complaint sent to Labour Attache Francisco Luna and filed in the Ministry of Labour, Jeramy C., a nurse from the Philippines accused Sampaguita International Employment Agency, operated by one Letty Domingo and her assistant Jossie Bayaua of defrauding him of 6,500CAD for purposes of finding him an employment in Canada as a live-in caregiver.

Jeramy alleged that Sampaguita agency promised to find him an employer in Canada within processing times of 5-6 months only. In return, he was asked to pay a placement fee of 6,500 CAD in an installment basis: a down payment of 3, 500 CAD upon submission of application and another payment of 3,000 once the LMO and contract is ready.

Jeramy paid in full in January 2012, nine months after he filed his application but as of this writing, he didn’t receive any copy of an LMO or an employment contract despite the promises and assurances made by the agency.

The same complaint was also forwarded to this writer by Jeramy’s friend, named Twinkle who filed an application with the same agency and paid a total of US 2,500.

A request for interview by this writer with the said agency was denied.

Where it all began

Jeramy got to know Sampaguita agency when he was still working as a nurse in England and got in touch with Helen* (name withheld for safety and privacy purposes) in Facebook. Helen is Jeramy’s classmate in college who is working as a live-in caregiver in Ontario. She mentioned that she knew Jossie Bayaua, who is an assistant to Letty Domingo, owner of Sampaguita agency. She said the agency is in need of applicants for a caregiver position. Jeramy expressed interest and Helen passed his information to Jossie.

Jeramy then communicated with Bayaua through her Facebook account in which she also asked if he knew others who are interested in applying. Jeramy passed the information to his other friends including Twinkle who applied, too. She asked her aunt who resides in the US for help in paying the down payment which her aunt readily agreed. Her aunt paid Domingo a total of US2, 500 through a manager’s check.

Both applicants submitted their applications and resume sometime on September 2011. Both were assured that they have employers.

Three months after, Jeramy said the agency was not able to come up with a contract and an LMO in the excuse that the Human Resource and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) is slow in processing papers. Five months later, Jeramy decided to withdraw his application because he was granted a tourist visa in Vancouver but Helen explained that his application is already in process and that his LMO has been released. But he did not  receive any LMO or contract even after another month later. This prompted him to call Domingo who explained that his LMO has been released but since he said he was withdrawing his payment, she cancelled her appointment to the “connection” thus, the non-issuance of the LMO. During the conversation, she was able to convinced Jeramy again that he has an LMO so he paid another CAD 3,000.00 as full payment.

Another month later and no sign of LMO as well. Jeramy then called Domingo and learned that he still doesn’t have an LMO so he decided to ask for a full refund. Jeramy alleged that during the conversation, Domingo was upset and blamed him and Helen forthe loss of LMO. She stressed that she lost her “connection” when he asked for a refund.

Jeramy nevertheless insisted for a refund at that point on which Domingo replied that she will refund it with all her expenses deducted and that it is not easy to refund his money.  She also threatened him that she can have him deported out of Canada and that he can’t implicate her because it was not she who received his payment.

In Twinkle’s case, her aunt Jennny who served as her representative and who paid her for down payment said her doubts against the agency were confirmed when Domingo called her to ask for Twinkle’s final payment of US2, 500.

“I asked for a copy of the LMO and the contract, and she started getting nasty,” she said.  To prove that there really is an employment offer for Twinkle, Domingo sent her a copy of a page 5 of a contract and asked that Twinkle sign it so they can pay the remaining balance.

But Jenny said, “I refused. I said to her that how could anybody sign a contract that has only page 5 on it? She started making a lot of excuses and she even denied that she received the cheque I sent her.”

There is no LMO and contract for Twinkle as of this writing, too.

Jeramy and Twinkle decided to file their complaints under the EPFNA.

And there are the other victims…

A further interview with those involve in this case also brought out some interesting stories. In an interview with Helen, the friend who recommended the agency and the liaison between Jeramy and the agency, she revealed that she too, was a victim in this tale of fraud.

Helen’s tears flowed when she realized that she unwittingly aided an illegal activity by recommending applicants to Sampaguita agency. She thought she was only helping a friend.

She admits that she is stressed out these days because of Jeramy’s case. Her relationship with the agency soured when she began inquiring of the real status of Jeramy’s application. She claimed that Domingo got upset and threatened that her involvement with them can jeopardize her status in Canada.

Helen arrived in Canada as a live-in caregiver. She met Domingo through Jossie, a person she knew well. They introduced themselves as the Sampaguita Recruitment agency and asked her if she has friends who are interested to work in Canada. They assured her that they can help them get work.

“I believed them. I know Jossie well. I was excited so I told my friend, Jera, and some others about the agency.”

As a liason between Jeramy and the agency, she received Jeramy’s down payment in her bank account.

“Immediately after Jeramy texted me that he wired the money, I withdraw it cash and handed it over to Jossie,” she explained, “I asked for receipt but Jossie laughed at me and told me that you never meet a placement agency who gives you receipt.”

Helen took that as “normal” but she admits it bothered her. “I only held to my belief that I know Jossie personally and believed that she will not deceive me.”

It is with this blind faith that she also recommended another relative to the agency who made a down payment of 900 CAD for a work in Canada. He withdrew his application for a month. In this case, she was also asked by Domingo to find a replacement.

“Ate Letty asked me to find a replacement applicant since the one I recommended withdrew. And I am supposed to fill that up since she lost 900CAD,” she narrates.

She was able to recommend another applicant and everything seemed well between them until Jeramy expressed his doubts after he did not receive any LMO nor contract as promised even after he paid in full.

“Before the second payment was made, I asked them (Domingo and Jossie) in behalf of Jeramy to show me the LMO. Ate Letty and Jossie assured me. I wanted to see it to make sure but was not able to meet them that one time due to prior engagement. So I never got to see a proof that an LMO for Jeramy exists. So when Jeramy called Ate Letty that he decided to withdraw his application and asked for a full refund because he lost faith on them, Letty started blaming me for what happened.”

Helen also said that she was told by Jossie and Domingo not to contact them anymore and asked her to refund Jeramy a total of 1, 400 CAD out of her own pocket.

Another friend Gerlie*, said she feels the same way. Gerlie said she was asked by Bayaua and Domingo to refer anybody who is interested in working in Ontario as mushroom pickers. Three of her friends from Saudi Arabia applied last year and paid CAD 3,000.00 each. Not one of them received any contract or LMO yet. And yet, Gerlie is still hoping that her friends will receive it.

Gerlie is also working as a live-in caregiver. She shared that both she and Helen, aside from Domingo and Bayaua, didn’t know a soul in Ontario when they first arrived.

“We have no relatives here and we didn’t know anything. I guess we were perfect prey to be used in their shady activities,” she mused.

Both Helen and Gerlie said the same thing:  “Meeting Letty Domingo was the worst thing that happened to me in Canada. I wish I’ve never known her.”

The Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act (EPFNA) which came into force in March 22, 2010, prohibits recruiters from charging any fees to foreign live-in caregivers, either directly or indirectly; prevents employers from recovering placement costs from the live-in caregiver; prohibits employers and recruiters from taking a live-in caregiver’s property, including documents such as a passport or work permit; prohibits a recruiter, an employer, or a person acting on their behalf from intimidating or penalizing a live-in caregiver for asking about or asserting their rights under the Act and requires recruiters and, in some situations, employers to distribute information sheets to live-in caregivers setting out their rights under the EPFNA and those provisions of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) considered to be of particular relevance.

Violations of this Act may lead to a fine of 50, 000 or more and imprisonment.

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