Foreign caregivers will not be eligible for permanent residence if they have not accrued two years of employment by Nov. 29, 2019, according to a notice posted by the Immigration Department.
The federal government is currently reviewing Canada’s two programs for foreign caregivers — one for those caring for children and the other for those caring for adults with high medical needs — and has yet to decide whether to do away with them completely, renew them or come up with replacements.
“Both programs were launched as five-year pilots, including a date that they expire. With a launch date of November 29, 2014, this means they will expire on November 29, 2019,” said Immigration Canada spokesperson Faith St. John.
“An assessment is underway on both of these pilots. This assessment will help determine what pathway to permanent residence should be in place after that date. Options to replace the two pilots or make them permanent will be reviewed and announced before they expire in 2019.”
Caregivers and their advocates said they were caught off-guard by the announcement posted online over the weekend, prompting fear that this could mark the end of the special pathway to permanent residency for foreign caregivers.
“Many caregivers are confused and frustrated because of the turnaround from the government,” said University of Toronto social work professor Rupaleem Bhuyan, who leads the Migrant Mothers Project, a community-university research initiative to study the effect of immigration policies.
Bhuyan noted that the government has continued to process and issue caregiver applications since last November without telling them until now that they would not be eligible for permanent residence.
The government announcement has already created a buzz among the caregiver community here and abroad.
“A lot of people, even those in the Philippines, are talking about it. There is so much anxiety out there,” said Marilyn Battad, who came to Canada from the Philippines in June 2016 as a caregiver.
“We leave our family to come and work in Canada with the hope that we could bring our family here and have a better life. Some have lost hope now.”
Not only does the 2019 cut-off affect the caregivers arriving now, many like Battad could also be affected if they fail to meet the two-year employment requirement by the deadline for reasons beyond their control.
Battad, 37, was released from her first caregiver job just six weeks after she arrived in the Northwest Territories. It took her 10 months to find another job in Nobleton, Ont., and secure a new work permit, which expires next April.
Bhuyan said it typically takes caregivers at least eight months to secure a new job and obtain a new work permit
Canada’s unique program is believed to be the only one in the world that provides access to permanent status for foreign caregivers after two years of full-time employment as a caregiver. The access to permanent residency is an incentive to make up for the job’s relative low pay and sometimes unpleasant work conditions.
In 2014, the previous Conservative government overhauled the program by capping the number of caregivers who can access permanent residency at 5,500 a year and imposing new requirements for language and post-secondary education.
Under the revamped program, only 20 per cent, or 555 caregivers out of 2,730 applicants, were granted permanent residency in the three years after the changes were made. An average of 8,000 caregivers were granted permanent status annually between 2006 and 2014 under the previous program.
“This is another underhanded way for the government to quietly take away the pathway for permanent residency for caregivers. This is not OK,” said Anna Malla of the Caregivers Action Centre in Toronto.
“The need for caregivers for child care and home care is permanent and we need permanent solutions. Caregivers need stable immigration status to do the job well. They provide a very important service to make it possible for Canadians to go to work.”
Manuela Gruber Hersch, president of the Association of Caregiver & Nanny Agencies Canada, said she believes foreign caregivers will continue to come and work in Canada even without the bait of permanent residency.
“Ideally, they would like to become permanent residents, but the wage is much higher in Canada (and) they are not going to stop coming,” said Gruber Hersch.