New rules for immigrant caregivers lessen exploitation

Canada had a program to bring nannies into Canada to care for children or adults who could not care for themselves. The program worked, more or less effectively, for decades. The nanny had to have a high school degree, basic English skills and either a six-month training program in a related field or one year of relevant work experience. The nanny could then come to Canada to work for the family who had sponsored them and then qualify for permanent residency if they had lived in and worked under their work permits for two years of a four-year period.

Ron Poulton

Canada had a program to bring nannies into Canada to care for children or adults who could not care for themselves. The program worked, more or less effectively, for decades. The nanny had to have a high school degree, basic English skills and either a six-month training program in a related field or one year of relevant work experience. The nanny could then come to Canada to work for the family who had sponsored them and then qualify for permanent residency if they had lived in and worked under their work permits for two years of a four-year period.

The program had problems, however, and needed solutions. To begin with, only the caregiver was allowed to enter Canada on the work permit, leaving spouses and children behind in the home country for years. The next problem became the employer identified on the work permit. If, after arriving in Canada, the caregiver lost their initial job, they could not work again until a new employer stepped forward, proved that no Canadian could be found to do the work and then employed the person full-time as a live-in. This all took time, leaving caregivers forced to make the hard decision of working without a work permit or risk losing the job, as an impatient employer looked for a faster solution.

But it was the live-in portion of the program that first caught the eye of politicians. In living in, the caregivers were sometimes subject to abuse and were often compelled to work longer than 37 hours per week but for the same pay as a 37-hour work week.  They were in the house, so why not ask them to do extra work?

In an attempt to help caregivers, the law was changed in 2014 to eliminate the live-in component. However, it was also changed to limit the pathway to permanent residency. The latter change effectively made it very difficult for caregivers to become permanent residents. Indeed, as of 2014, the caregiver program in Canada was effectively no more.  

Now this.

In the latest amendment, caregivers can now come to Canada on work permits constrained only by their professions, not their employers. As long as they stay in the field, caregivers can change jobs when and if they choose. This ensures that no gaps of time arise while they are in Canada and that permanent residency applications they may make in the future will not be refused by the fact of illegal work undertaken to fill gaps between approved employers. In addition, a caregiver accepted into the program can now bring their spouse and children right away. The spouse gets an open work permit and the kids go to school.         

Finally, the live-in portion will not be resurrected, which is a good thing. For too many years, many caregivers lived in fear or worked in unfair and underpaid conditions.    

After two years of work, the caregiver will be landed as a permanent resident of Canada — subject to admissibility criteria.

It may be true to say wither the live-in caregiver class, but it is also true to say arise the path to permanent residency. Looks like we have a proper caregiver class once again. 

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