Ottawa urged to grant permanent status to migrant workers upon arrival

Ottawa urged to grant permanent status to migrant workers upon arrival

Josarie Danieles cared for other people’s children in Canada for years, only to learn she wouldn’t be allowed to stay because her own daughter is “retarded.”

Josarie Danieles borrowed $6,000 to pay a recruitment agency to bring her to Canada under the live-in caregiver program, in hopes of clearing a path to immigration and a better future for the two daughters she left behind in the Philippines.

Six long years after arriving in Toronto, Danieles was shocked to learn she would be denied permanent residency because officials have deemed her older daughter to have “intellectual retardation.”

“I felt like I (was) dying when I was denied. I don’t know where to go. I feel so hopeless. We’ve made all these sacrifices with the assurance that there’s a pathway to permanent residency,” Danieles told the Star, sobbing. “I spend so many years away from my family. Every night I stay up with my pinched heart.”

On the eve of the Liberals’ anticipated reforms to foreign worker programs, expected later this month, Danieles and others planned to share their stories at a news conference on Sunday — a last-ditch effort to persuade Ottawa to grant low-wage, low-skilled foreign workers permanent status upon arrival, the way it does high-skilled immigrants.

According to the Toronto Caregivers’ Action Centre, there are at least 25 current cases across Canada where foreign workers have been denied permanent status because their dependants were deemed medically inadmissible.
“There is a path, but it is a minefield. It is difficult for temporary foreign workers to assert their rights,” said the action centre’s Anna Malla. “The review of the program will be tabled in Parliament on Sept. 19. We are hoping to see recommendations and policy changes that would improve workers’ rights.”

Danieles came to Toronto in 2010 and looked after five adults and two children, often working six days a week for the meager $900 that she would need to sent home to support her husband, Aurelio, and the girls, Precious Ann Margaret, 13, and Princess Joanna, 9.

Since Danieles left the Philippines in 2008, first to Hong Kong as a live-in caregiver, she has been home to see her family once, for a total of six weeks.

After meeting her live-in employment requirement and waiting four years for the processing of her permanent residence application, Danieles learned about the denial earlier this year.

She agrees that her elder daughter, who lives with the family in a small village, has a learning disability.

But she says the girl has been doing better in school since the medical assessment for immigration discovered that her vision was poor and she started using glasses.

Advocacy groups, including unions, have called on Ottawa either to grant permanent status to migrant workers like Danieles upon arrival or to offer open work permits that would allow them to work for any Canadian employer, as a way to protect migrants from exploitative work conditions and Canadians from the push for lower wages.

“Migrant caregivers are recruited to work in Canada to care for our family members with disabilities. Yet, after years of providing this care, they are denied the right to remain because their own family members have disabilities. That disconnect is jarring,” said labour and human rights lawyer Fay Faraday, who has worked with migrant workers for two decades.

Although Immigration Minister John McCallum has yet to review the details of the reviews, he has hinted to the media that he would seek to find a “middle ground” and create a pathway to permanent residency for low-wage, low-skill temporary foreign workers.

There are currently some 100,000 temporary foreign workers with valid work permits in Canada, the largest number in Alberta, British Colombia and Ontario.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said 8,810 temporary foreign workers transitioned to permanent residency in 2014, the latest statistics available, but three-quarters of those were high-skilled workers.

“We are tied to one employer per contract, and that makes it difficult for us to change jobs. We come here without immigration status so we are at a disadvantage because our rights are not sufficiently protected by law,” said Kristina Torres, who came to Canada in 2012 under the live-in caregiver program, even though she has a nursing degree from the Philippines.

“The reality is that when they don’t need us, they are ready to just dispose of us. Any two-step process or path to permanent residency is really a path to exploitation.”

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