Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander announced changes to the Live-in Caregivers Program aiming to eliminate the 60,000 permanent residency applications backlogged within two years. Photo by Evan Boudreau.

Skepticism greets update to Live-in Caregivers Program

By 
  • November 7, 2014

TORONTO - Months of closed-door conversations, community consultations and a lack of follow-up communication leaves Faye Arellano skeptical about the federal government’s intentions to clear up the Live-in Caregivers Program’s backlog.

“Sad to say I am not very optimistic about the future,” said Arellano of the Oct. 31 announcement by Chris Alexander, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, that the government will process 30,000 of the 60,000 backlogged applications next year alone.

“If the government really intends to clear the backlog they should have done that a long time ago so that it did not reach a staggering number and prolong the misery of caregivers who are aching to be reunited with their family. As they say, it is usually easier said than done (so) for now we’ll have to take their word for it,” said Arellano, a member of Task Force: PR Stay, a Toronto-based group formed this year to gather community input regarding the Live-in Caregivers Program and relay it back to the government.

The LCP is a unique branch of the federal government’s Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) which seeks to fill employment gaps in what are considered predominantly low skilled fields. What separates the LCP from the rest of the TFWP is that it functions as an immigration avenue, offering participants the opportunity to apply for permanent residency after completing a compulsory 3,900 hours worked under an authorized employer over a minimum of 22 months and maximum 48.

Alexander announced in Toronto that Canada “will be increasing the number of caregivers who will become permanent residents in 2015 to 30,000 which represents an all-time high. We have the firm intention, if we get the chance, to process that many again in 2016. That will bring a backlog of 60,000 down to zero in just two years.

“By taking this aggressive approach to bring down another backlog we expect processing times to fall and for caregivers to face shorter periods of separation from their loved ones overseas,” he said. “(Also) starting Nov. 30 in addition to these measures caregivers will have two new pathways to permanent residency under the caregiver program. One pathway for child care providers and another pathway for those supporting individuals with high medical needs.”

Doing so will “lead to six-month processing times” and provide caregivers with “better care opportunities and increased wages.” These new pathways will also see 5,500 additional caregivers issued permanent residency next year.

Arellano and many of those she represents have grown disheartened with the reform process. While Arellano at first praised the scope of the government’s research, understanding the complexity of coast-to-coast consultations, not hearing back from the government following their July 23 meeting reignited her dissatisfaction with the LCP and those who run it. As requested in July the group put together a reform proposal based on the community’s input and submitted it to the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration on Sept. 16.

“We never heard about what happened to our proposal ... (and) it was unfortunate that we never got back to the table” with the government, she said.

“The Filipino community is directly impacted by the new changes to the program. (But) it appears that the government is set to do just what its economic plan dictates.”

Senator Tobias Enverga praised the government’s intention to improve the immigration program. As an immigrant himself, Enverga knows the challenges associated with becoming a Canadian resident, but also the importance of foreigners becoming Canadians.

“It is critical for our immigrants that our immigration system works well,” said Canada’s first Filipino Canadian Senator. “Immigration is critical to maintain and bolster the success of our diverse society as well as the emerging needs of our economy.”

Br. Don Quilao acknowledged that it will take some time for caregivers and those who assist them to adjust to the new rules but still said the modifications are a positive thing.

“It will be a big help because everybody knows being away from the family is a big problem psychologically, spiritually and with everything,” said Quilao, head servant of the Filipino Canadian Catholic Charismatic Prayer Communities. “I heard that there are a lot of improvements already and I am happy that they are doing everything to help immigrants, not just the Filipinos who are already here.” 

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