Live-In-Caregiver program questioned as jury prepares to decide on accusations of enslavement

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      The executive director of the Philippine Women Centre is renewing the call to abolish Canada’s Live-in Caregiver Program.

      Cecilia Diocson made the demand as B.C. Supreme Court judge Richard Goepel is expected to charge the jury today (June 24) in a human-trafficking case in which a couple has been accused of enslaving Filipino caregiver Leticia Sarmiento.

      “We continue to call for the scrapping of the Live-in Caregiver Program,” Diocson told the Straight in a phone interview. “That has always been our position. Now it [LCP] became a model for the Temporary Foreign Worker program in Canada.”

      More of Diocson’s voice will again be heard following her recent return to Vancouver after spending some time in Montreal.

      The outspoken cofounder of PWC is also involved in work to possibly reopen the group’s physical centre at 451 Powell Street in East Vancouver.

      More popularly known as the Kalayaan Centre (Freedom Centre), the space used to house five Filipino Canadian grassroots organizations until it closed in 2008.

      In addition to the PWC, these groups are the B.C. Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Ugnayan (Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance), Siklab (National Alliance of Filipino Migrant Workers in Canada), and Filipino Nurses Support Group.

      According to Diocson, the PWC’s demand for the scrapping of the LCP has been misunderstood by some in the Filipino community as potentially posing a barrier to the immigration of mostly women caregivers to Canada. “That is a wrong notion,” she said.

      Diocson explained that her group is critical about the fundamental pillars of the program that provide conditions for the exploitation of women.

      These include the mandatory live-in requirement of the program, and the temporary status granted to women.

      In 2009, UBC geography professor Geraldine Pratt told the Straight there’s no reason why present-day ethnic-minority caregivers should be treated differently from the mostly European women who came to Canada as domestic workers prior to the mid 1970s.

      According to Pratt, Europeans who came as nannies starting in the 1890s were granted permanent-residency status immediately upon entering the country.

      Pratt recalled that this privilege was taken away in 1973 when Canada implemented a predecessor to the LCP that mostly saw women from non-European countries being employed as caregivers.

      A verdict is expected anytime soon regarding the case involving Filipino caregiver Sarmiento.

      The caregiver didn’t come to Canada under the LCP but was brought to Canada by her employers from Hong Kong on a temporary visa.



      International Nannies & Homecare Ltd.

      Jun 24, 2013 at 2:55pm

      If the current Government does cancel the Live In Caregiver Program, we will need a newly established Au Pair Program ASAP.

      There are many eager applicants from around the globe who would love to work as live in Au Pairs in Canada but are unable due the limited # of Holiday Working Visas for certain countries. Living with the family is a choice to experience Canadian culture first hand. Live in Au Pairs are hugely popular in the US, most European countries, Australia and New Zealand.

      An Example

      Jun 24, 2013 at 4:08pm

      As a former live-in home care worker I have to say that all live-in positions are a sort of enslavement. I would never ever go into that line of work ever again nor would I recommend it to anyone. The government has special rules within the employment act for this line of work enabling employers to pay their staff for less than half their time on the job. If you calculate out the hourly rate against the actual hours worked you may as well be a kid in a third world factory, at least you get to go home at night. Granted the pay per day is supposed to allow for a 2hr break per day as well as 8hrs sleep time but in the ten years I did this work not once did I get either let alone both at the same time. What I had was 96hr shifts with at least 88 of those hours on my feet working. And I am from BC, imagine what happens to people brought in with little English..?

      The truth about the live-in caregiver program

      Jun 24, 2013 at 5:42pm

      The LCP gives a chance to qualified foreign workers from different countries, especially third world as well as poor countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia and other places to come to Canada and work for two years towards applying for their permanent residence.

      The program as well allows foreign caregivers to get better pay under the Canadian employment standards minimum wage regulations, in comparison to whatever they were making in other countries, such as Saudi Arabia 500.00 CAD per month, UAE 650.00 CAD per month, Lebanon 250.00 CAD per month, Hong Kong 550.00 CAD per month, Western Europe 800.00 to 1200.00 CAD per month. Canada offers a minimum of 1200.00 CAD take home per month as well as permanent residence down the road.

      The allegations that caregivers may have been abused working extra hours, underpaid, locked up in the house or residence of the employer, enslaved are most of the time exaggerations and fabrications, and I will tell you why.

      The caregiver program that Canada has, is one of the best in the world, but nobody seems to understand how positive this program is
      in terms of integrating the new comers into the Canadian culture, improving their English and communication skills, after living with Canadian families for 2 years and sometimes more.

      To be fair and subjective, nobody can rule out the possibilities and probabilities of having an employer breaching employment standards regulations and/or the LCP employment contract here and there. The practices of overworking the caregivers without proper pay are absolutely condemned and despicable, but to incorporate all Canadian employers into very few cases of abuse is also no fair and considered slander and defamation and an insult to good employers that abide by rules and regulations and still have a great relationship with their caregivers after so many years.

      The LCP contract is provided to the caregivers before even getting their visas to come to Canada. If the employer's practices and treatment are below the standard mentioned on the contract, the caregiver can simply switch to another employer.

      If the caregiver does not know how to read her contract, does not have common sense, does not react on time to an employer's bad practices and allows abuse to happen and proceed, then it is his/her responsibility. It can happen to anybody.

      The Law does not protect unwitting dupes!

      Canada LCP

      Jun 24, 2013 at 5:52pm

      It would a disaster if the LCP in Canada is to be abolished.

      Half of Canada's population is over 50, Caregivers and in home care workers are at an all time shortage as it is.

      The negative impact on people's lives if that takes place especially in rural areas and to people with Cancer, Alzheimer's and other diseases.

      A handful of bad cases is not sufficient to halt a program of so many benefits to the caregivers and to the employers as well.

      This is life, everybody stumbles on something bad here and there.

      There are hundreds of thousands of of foreign workers in Canada working in dignity and paid on time with respect.

      Few bad employers do not give a program of a great importance such as the LCP a bad name.

      A caregiver in Manila does not make more than two hundred dollars per month, she is making in Canada six times as much.

      The Government of Canada knows better, they are wise enough not to abolish anything.

      It is the responsibility of the worker to report bad employers and that is why hotlines have been implemented for that purpose.

      Waiting two years to speak up is dumb, I am very sorry for the expression, but what were you thinking?????

      Abolish a nationwide program that is integrating immigrants to the Canadian Society because of few case?

      I don't think so..


      Jun 24, 2013 at 6:22pm

      The Conservatives would like to get rid of the LCP all together but are worried about the backlash from the Pinoy community.
      Government recently announced a massive backlog with the LCP and live in caregivers might experience waiting times for PR up to 10 yrs !!


      Jun 24, 2013 at 7:33pm

      Forgot that next time you see the Immigration Minister Jason Kenney cuddling up to the Filipino community, remember that his government, Prime Minister Harper and all the other Conservatives MP's , think that live in caregivers provide " marginal" benefit to Canadian society mentioned in this article.

      Elaine Sta. Maria

      Jun 25, 2013 at 10:13am

      I agree with scrapping the Live In Care Giver Program. It's time for the Philippine government to stop this "legalized" human trafficking and it's time for Canada to condone such inhuman ways of exporting slave prone nanny work. I'm ashamed on Phil. announcing that their new heroes are the Filipino workers overseas, remitting billions of dollars each year. This is a pathetic way to earn a living and millions of Filipino children experience being separated from their mostly mothers and become victims of social ills themselves right inside the Philippines. If a Filipino wants to come to Canada or US., they should do so the way other nationalities come, with suitability, skills and financial capability thus, they can contribute to the success of Canada and they themselves become Canadians. It's time our Canadian government become socially responsible. When a program does more harm than good, it should be scrapped.


      Jun 26, 2013 at 2:27pm

      People condemning the LCP are hypocrites. The have not considered the success stories of majority of caregivers years after they are awarded their permanent residence. Filipino Caregivers mostly professionals come to Canada as a stepping stone to a BETTER FUTURE. In almost anything we do in life, we have to take the first step and just follow the process. Along the way, there are obstacles that you have to bear considering you are in a foreign country with different sets of rules. Be vigilant in safeguarding yourself and be patient. In the end, we harvest the fruit of our labor. Try working in Saudi Arabia, and complain, do you think their government will listen? You may never be heard forever and just completely disappear. We should be thankful we are being heard by this very humanitarian government, and given a chance to live our lives with so much freedom.


      Jun 26, 2013 at 5:22pm

      This situation of the Nanny being brought in from HK on a temporary visa isn't about the LCP program... lets stick to the topic at hand... this is human trafficking.... the LCP is not... and it is not enslavement... workers under the LCP have rights... it's up to them to use it... there is a contract which the caregiver signs... there is no problem with the LCP

      Politicians are the real culprits

      Jun 27, 2013 at 9:57pm

      I need to agree with the comments about the Conservatives. There were great hopes for real changes a few years ago but it was indeed all political wooing. Filipino live in caregivers are highly trained and shouldn't have to be to work as live in nannies in order to stay.