Trained nurse caught in bureaucratic maze because of Conservative government changes to caregiver program

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      When Hessed Torres arrived in Canada last September, she felt that her future was fairly assured.

      As a live-in caregiver, she would have to remain employed with a family for two years. Then the former Manila resident could apply to become a permanent resident, putting her on a path to eventual citizenship.

      "I have a child of my own back home," Torres told the Georgia Straight. "She actually turned four last October—a month after I left—so I missed her birthday. I'm doing this for my daughter and for my mom who is actually retired now. Due to the economic situation in the Philippines, people can't rely on pensions."

      But Torres, who was trained as a registered nurse in the Philippines, was thrown for a loop when her job in Canada didn't work out and the federal government overhauled the program.

      Since November 30, caregivers are no longer required to live with their employers. But now, they fall under the temporary foreign worker program. And before they can be hired, employers must apply for a labour market impact assessment, aka an LMIA, before a temporary foreign worker can be hired.

      "A lot of families are looking for caregivers and nannies like me," Torres said. "The problem is due to the changes, we can't easily get employment. It takes about six months to get an LMIA."

      Vancouver-Kensington NDP MLA Mable Elmore told the Straight that the previous system provided a pathway for caregivers like Torres to become Canadian citizens. Temporary foreign workers, on the other hand, are only allowed to remain in Canada for four years and then must leave for four years before returning.

      "We're moving away from a model based on permanent immigration," Elmore said. "We've seen a shift where the majority of people coming into our country are on a temporary status."

      Elmore said that under the new program, caregivers can enter the country in two streams: 

      • They are temporary foreign workers hired by families with children.

      • They are temporary foreign workers hired for high medical needs.

      Elmore noted that 2,750 people in each category are allowed to apply to become permanent residents. All the rest are out of luck.

      "If they're unsuccessful in getting into one of the streams, they're going to have to leave for four years."

      In addition, Elmore claimed that 97 percent of applications for labour market impact assessments have not been approved since the start of this year. She said that families need caregivers but they're facing a great deal of difficulty because of the backlog.

      "They’re getting the runaround because the government is not approving these LMIAs,” she said.

      Today, Elmore and Torres joined advocates for caregivers at a news conference at the B.C. Teachers' Federation head office in Vancouver.

      One of the speakers, Natalie Drolet of the West Coast Domestic Workers' Association, said that the caregivers used to come to Canada and endure family separation for up to seven years because they knew that they could eventually apply to become permanent residents. That's no longer the case.

      "Without this automatic right to have their applications for PR processed by the federal government, then the temporary foreign worker program is actually a disincentive for new caregivers to come to Canada," Drolet said.

      She added that families are being assessed a $1,000 fee for each LMIA application.

      "In some cases, the costs are borne by the caregivers themselves," Drolet said. "Clients are afraid of leaving employers in abusive situations because if they quit, they are not eligible for employment insurance and they know that there will be a delay of six months for a new work permit. And they can't simply afford to be out of work and potentially homeless for that period of time."

      Torres nearly burst into tears when she spoke at the news conference, saying if it weren't for the support group Migrante B.C. and Elmore, she might be homeless.

      "I came to Canada to be employed because back home there wasn't employment for me as a registered nurse," she said. "So I'm here in another country unemployed just like I was back home."

      She pointed out that there are many families who need her and her friends to work for them to provide childcare and care for those with special medical needs. And she found an employer who was willing to hire her.

      "The problem is what am I going to do during the time that I don't have an LMIA?" Torres asked. "What am I supposed to do for the next six months?...If I even work outside the caregiver program, that's a cause for me to be deported."

      She ended her comments with a plea to the government to allow her an opportunity to work. 

      "It's not just us caregivers that are affected," she said. "It's the Canadian families that need us to work for them."

      Elmore said that she will hold meetings in communities across B.C. to draw more attention to this issue. In addition, she plans to introduce a private member's bill in the next session of the legislature to follow the lead of the Manitoba government, which requires employers to be licensed and to post a bond of $10,000.

      "If there are violations that are found against an employer, workers would have access to that," Elmore said.

      On Saturday (May 30), Mable Elmore will host a forum on the caregiver program from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Semiahmoo Library at 1815 152 Street in South Surrey.

      Comments

      11 Comments

      Will

      May 29, 2015 at 11:17pm

      Jobs for Canadians. Find a Canadian to do the job. If you can't find a Canadian offer more money until a qualified Canadian applies. Supply and demand and all that jazz. If you can't afford a qualified Canadian to do the job vote for someone who champion higher wages and subsidized child and elder care.

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      Walt Lavigne

      May 30, 2015 at 1:04pm

      Canadians should be considered first..not a TFW. .Canada us now in recession. .no need for a TFW program. ....these people were brought here to supplement us...Not to replace us..but replacing us is exactly whats going on.

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      yyz rush

      May 30, 2015 at 2:14pm

      Sorry.My heart goes out to you.Everyone wanting PR in Canada has some problem or the other.Why PR even getting a visitor's visa is so difficult.I feel the truth of the matter is that there are too many Pinoys in Canada.They are the highest group of immigrants from any one particular country.History shows that whenever there are too many of one country applying for PR, there will be some kind of cut. Most Pinoys have immigrated to Canada based on care giver/Food service industry program.That is why it looks like CIC is cutting this program.Good luck to you though.

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      Funny...

      May 30, 2015 at 3:29pm

      They note that she is "trained as an RN" but why is that relevant in this case? Her status as an RN would be relevant if this piece was about a shortage of nurses, but that would mean attacking the folks who block certifying foreign educated RNs: the nurses' union.

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      Cam Randal

      May 30, 2015 at 8:55pm

      She does not have a job in Canada. She should return home. She did not come here as a nurse. Saudi Arabia is full of RN from the Philippines working as nannies and when they have problems they return home without a fuss. What makes these people so willing to expect Canadians to accommodate them when they lose their job here? Let's see some stories about Canadians out of work, and struggling to make ends meet instead of focusing on TFWs and their sad stories.

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      Tom Clancy

      May 30, 2015 at 10:52pm

      Trained nurse caught in bureaucratic maze.
      -Then the former Manila resident could apply to become a permanent resident,
      -"I have a child of my own back home," I'm doing this for my daughter and for my mom who is actually retired now
      *****we wish that we could do this, but......****
      -The problem is due to the changes, we can't easily get employment...
      **** we know exactly as to what you are talking about****
      -Vancouver-Kensington NDP MLA Mable Elmore says "We're moving away from a model based on permanent immigration," Elmore said. "We've seen a shift where the majority of people coming into our country are on a temporary status."
      (((( Mable is a second generation Filipino-Canadian who has also been active in the peace movement and on immigrant, social justice, women’s and gay, lesbian and transgendered issues.)))))
      You can reach us by email at mable.elmore.mla@leg.bc.camable.elmore.mla@leg.bc.ca or by phone at 604-775-1033.
      -"Without this automatic right to have their applications for PR processed by the federal government,
      **** WTF...automatic right? THEY DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT*****
      -if they quit, they are not eligible for employment insurance and they know that there will be a delay of six months for a new work permit.
      **** and Canadians are having a hard time getting EI *****
      - follow the lead of the Manitoba government, which requires employers to be licensed and to post a bond of $10,000.

      "If there are violations that are found against an employer, workers would have access to that," Elmore said.
      ***** the workers????? The TEMP WORKERS.

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      sicntired

      May 31, 2015 at 3:36am

      The article states that there are lots of people looking for these workers but it's hard to find employment?How is that possible?I understand that people from places like the Phillipines want to live here and who can blame them?Canada is always looking for new immigration.It's unfortunate that we are always looking for people that can go anywhere.It's the poor that need the hand up that find getting here and staying here difficult.It seems that our immigration system is wide open for some and not so much for others.

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      Albert Johnson

      May 31, 2015 at 9:47am

      She is not abandoned here. Her employer has a contractual obligation to pay her airfare back to the Philippines. Canadian PR and Citizenship are privileges not a right.

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      enough is enough

      Jun 1, 2015 at 10:49am

      Canadians FIRST.
      Too many temporary workers here.
      I have met so many people applying on jobs here that have only been in Canada for 3 months or less. Some just weeks..most from different parts of Asia or Australia.
      They tell me they are here on working Visas ..looking for work, and obtaining interviews.
      These jobs are do not require any degrees, specialized education or skills that Canadians couldn't do and are NOT minimum wages positions, though most are part time.
      Something is very wrong here.

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      Steve Nash

      Jun 1, 2015 at 11:16am

      I agree that the government should prioritize canadian for the post, but the question here is that, are they willing to do it?

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