Politics

Liberals launch 2 new immigration pilots for foreign caregivers

The Liberal government is launching two new pilot projects for foreign caregivers to replace existing programs that have been harshly criticized for keeping nannies trapped in abusive workplaces and separated from their families.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announcing initiatives to replace 'ineffective' programs

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen is announcing two new five-year caregiver immigration pilots to replace what he calls 'ineffective' programs. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Liberal government is launching new pilots for foreign caregivers to replace existing programs that have been harshly criticized for keeping nannies trapped in abusive workplaces and apart from their families.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen is announcing two new five-year initiatives today that will allow caregivers to bring family members with them to Canada, and make it easier for them to become permanent residents.

"Caregivers provide care to families in Canada that need it, and it's time for Canada to care for them in return," Hussen said in a statement. "We are providing them with both the opportunity to bring their family members here and access (to) permanent residency to demonstrate our commitment."

Hussen is announcing details of the pilot projects during an event at the Neighbourhood Organization in Toronto today.

Under the new pilots:

  • Applicants will be assessed for permanent residence eligibility before they start working in Canada. After they have a work permit and two years' work experience, they can have a "direct pathway" to permanent residency.
  • Caregivers will be granted occupation-specific work permits, allowing them to change jobs quickly when necessary.
  • Spouses and common-law partners will be allowed open work permits and dependent children will be allowed study permits so caregivers' families can come with them to Canada.

A total of 5,500 principal applicants will be permitted annually, and family members will not count toward the cap.

A news release from Hussen's office said the existing foreign caregiver pilot programs, which were brought in under the previous Conservative government in 2014 and are set to expire this November, were "ineffective."

Last fall, a national coalition of caregiver advocacy groups called the system "fundamentally flawed" and pushed for reforms that would improve working conditions and allow caregivers to stay with their families. They said the 2014 regime extended the legal basis for exploiting caregivers.

Abusive work environments

A report published at the time by the coalition recounted stories of foreign caregivers struggling with family separations, difficult and sometimes abusive work environments and a complex bureaucracy.

"Our domestic work, child-rearing and elderly care are all fundamental needs in the labour market and critical to the well-being of a growing and aging population. Yet we do this work from a position of precariousness that is created by Canada's immigration and labour laws," the report reads.

Caregivers have temporary work permits that tie them to one employer. That compels them to work with the employer named on those permits and makes it difficult for them to leave a bad workplace situation, the report said.

The report also outlined the impact temporary status has on the lives of many workers.

"This temporariness has led to profoundly damaging and lasting impacts on the physical and mental health of caregivers and our families. Years of family separation can cause intergenerational conflicts between care workers and our children as well as family breakdown," it reads.

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