On Saturday, June 23rd, New Democratic Party (NDP) Immigration critic Jinny Sims met with caregivers and advocates in a townhall meeting in Toronto.

We would like to sincerely thank Currents & Breaking News and TheGotchaJournalist for documenting this meeting as we were unable to attend.  Please make sure to view these links; all videos are taken by and remain property of them.

Suffice to say that this was a very emotional display by caregivers in Toronto who were brave enough to tell their heart-wrenching stories.

NDP immigration critic Jinny Sims makes it very clear: this is simply a matter of fair treatment for caregivers who feel betrayed by the Conservative government.  Many promises were made in order to obtain full support by the caregiver and advocate community and these promises have been broken with impunity.  Sims says that the NDP opposition wants to listen to caregivers and “will be loud about it.”  Concurrently, they want to ensure families, who are in desperate need of care, are able to bring in caregivers in a timely and efficient manner.  Sims mentions that she has been told that for approximately six requests for a caregiver there is usually one caregiver to fill that position.

VIDEO: NDP’s Jinny Sims discusses their views on caregiver treatment

As the meeting with Sims begins, caregivers start telling their personal stories about treatment, trials and tribulations in the Live-In Caregiver Program.  Susan laments, “I cook very good dishes here, but who cooks for my son?  Who takes care of him?”  Visibly upset, the raw emotion she displays due to being ignored by the Conservative government after promises were made gives a clear look at the struggles workers go through while caring for Canadian families.  She is one of thousands that are constantly reminded of the years she is missing in her own family’s life abroad in favour of providing them a better life through the federal immigration program.

VIDEO: Caregiver Susan talks about missing her family

Roz, a midwife and nutritionist-dietitian, speaks about her elder charge who she treated and regarded as her own father.  She has been in Canada over three years and has already lost nearly one year due to lengthy processing times just to transfer her work permit to new employers.  This is a common story as, shockingly, caregivers who are already here under the federal immigration program must serve lengthy periods of time just to move to a new employer.  In Roz’s case, this came after an untimely passing of the elder she took care of.  With only two months left before her ability to apply for Permanent Residence, she experience this major set back.  In her case, similar to many others, she endured employment trials with families who wanted her to work 24 hours per day and did not wish to pay competitive salaries, or even salaries that constituted minimum wage for the hours she was to be working.

VIDEO: Roz speaks about set backs due to lengthy processing times

After completing the two year immigration program, caregivers are able to apply for Permanent Residence but the lengthy processing times affect more than just family reunification.  The health care coverage, namely OHIP in Ontario, that they are given as foreign workers is tied to their working permit.  The caregiver, Pearlita, featured in the next video has been waiting nearly 3 years for her Permanent Residency to be approved.  During that time, her work permit has expired and so too has her OHIP coverage.  While she waits to be reunited with her family, losing precious time to guide her children, the basic right to health care coverage is affected by administrative delays which were to be addressed by the Conservative government’s immigration MP Jason Kenney.

VIDEO: Pearlita’s health care coverage runs out while waiting for Permanent Residency

Front and centre in the caregiver crisis in Canada, recruiting agencies have received backlash from workers, advocates and the government.  While legitimate agencies work to provide fair placements for caregivers, unscrupulous agents have taken and continue to take advantage of workers desperate to find a new life here.  Caregiver Catherine talks about her experience with an agency that charged her an exorbitant fee and remains in business, conducting poor business practices and, in some situations, bribery in order to obtain those fees despite the laws preventing them from doing so.  Catherine talks about her colleagues not having the courage to discuss their “release upon arrival” stories and the part that families play in keeping these poor agents in business.  Employers are still paying very small fees, or no fees at all, to these agents with the excuse that they are providing an opportunity to the caregivers.

VIDEO: Catherine points a finger at unscrupulous agents collecting fees from desperate caregivers abroad

Tetiana, another caregiver who paid a placement fee in order to obtain employment, discusses how she was given only $60 per week to obtain food for both her and her elder patient.  Even though $53.55 is deducted from her salary weekly for meals, she is left with only $30 to feed herself .  (Note that the deduction for meals is the maximum allowable, as dictated by Ontario Labour and Service Canada)

VIDEO: Tetiana is given only $30 by her live-in employer to cover her weekly meals

In the next video, caregiver Pinky discusses her experience since arriving in Canada in 2004.  Her story resonates with nearly every worker who comes here under the Live-In Caregiver program: long hours without pay, no days off, bounced pay cheques.  Similar to Pearlita, her OHIP expired during her wait for an open work permit and Permanent Residency.  However, Pinky experienced a more concerning situation; she was fired when she announced to her employer that she had become pregnant, a clear violation of Ontario Labour laws.  Pictured in the following video along with her son, she is one of the few lucky ones who is not still waiting for reunification with her child.

VIDEO: Pinky talks about her employer’s clear violation of labour laws

The stories continue as various caregivers talk about their experiences, including an applicant for Permanent Residency who received a denial of her application due to her child’s Special Needs condition.  Others discuss the set backs they experience due to poor handling of their program by Citizenship and Immigration.  One talks about how her job ended abruptly while on holiday as the elder she cared for passed on and her work permit became invalid.

VIDEO: More heart-wrenching stories from Toronto caregivers

One thing that’s clear from the NDP townhall is that there are groups – politicians, advocates, employers, agents and colleagues – who are deeply concerned about the future of this very important program.  All that the workers want is for someone to listen to them and put a real plan into motion to ensure their fair treatment.  Conservative immigration minister Jason Kenney has made tall promises and delivered on exactly none of them; processing times have increased, family reunification is taking longer, government is not providing the protection for workers that they promised.  It is encouraging that the NDP opposition party is taking a stand for these workers and we hope that voters take notice of who is really looking out for the workers who provide invaluable care for Canadian families.


Video source: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheGotchaJournalist

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