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Canada’s Caregiver Program is offered and administered by the government of Canada and is the primary means by which foreign caregivers come to Canada as elder-care, special needs, and childcare providers.
On November 30, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration Canada replaced the Live-in Caregivers Program (LCP) with a two-stream program that caps the number of permanent residency applications at 5,500 a year. Caregivers no longer have universal access to permanent residence status after working in Canada for two years, and must apply under two categories ’ those caring for children, and those caring for people with high medical needs.
Ottawa will allow 2,750 caregivers under both new streams to access permanent residency. Participants are still required to complete two years of work, similar to the LCP, but are now required to have one year-post secondary study in Canada or a foreign diploma or certificate that has been given equivalency here. Caregivers must also pass stringent language requirements ’ a Level 5 language test in either English or French, or if the caregiver is a registered nurse or a psychiatric nurse he or she must pass a Level 7 language test. Other changes include elimination of the live-in requirement and shortened processing times for permanent residency applications to six months.
Between 2008 and 2013, the program granted permanent residency to more than 60,000 live-in caregivers and their families. More than 90% of primary applicants are women from the Philippines, an unsurprising statistic given the fact that the Philippines was the top source country for permanent residents to Canada in 2014.
The changes to the Caregiver Program have received negative reactions since they were first introduced, with immigrant rights activist groups like the Caregivers Action Centre in Toronto criticizing many new aspects of the program. Spokesperson Pura Velasco stated that “[guaranteed residency] is the only thing that would protect workers from abuse and allow them to speak up about abuses without risk of deportation”. She also noted another change ’ Ottawa will no longer entertain humanitarian and compassionate appeals for caregiver’s dependents. “If dependents are declared inadmissible, the caregiver will also be declared inadmissible. That is new and it’s too harsh. All these changes are so harsh and will push caregivers into more precarious employment.”
Families and individuals hoping to hire caregivers under the program have been frustrated frustrated by long wait times and lost applications.
Stephen Harper, when questioned on Friday, May 8 about the changes to the Caregiver Program stated that his government’s goals were to make sure that immigrants were not filling jobs that Canadians could do, while allowing temporary workers the the ability to move towards being permanent citizens.
“This country is not going to have a policy, as long as I’m prime minister, where we will have a permanent underclass of … people who are so-called temporary, but here forever, with no rights of citizenship and no rights of mobility. That is not the Canadian way we do immigration. So we’re going to make sure that program does not drift in that direction.”