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.