Canadian PR Backlog Delays Family Reunion For Caregivers

Despite making live-in requirement among caregivers working in Canada optional and removal of four-year limit of their work permits, joy remains an elusive goal for many of them.

One of them is Jocelyn Godroy, 43, who arrived in Toronto in 2008 under Canada’s live-in caregiver program after working in Hong Kong for four years. Two years later, she applied for permanent residency status after complying with the live-in work requirement.

Over the 13 years she worked abroad, the former midwife has only managed to visit her children — aged 10, 7 and 3 when she left them — three times because she chose to spend money for trips on their education and other needs.

“I’m taking care of others’ children but can’t take care of my own kids, who are living by their own selves,” said Godroy, whose marriage has broken down and whose mother — the care provider of her children — has passed away during her time away from home. “Please put yourself in my shoes as a mother.”

According to Vilma Pagaduan, a Filipino TV and radio host in Toronto, many caregivers share the same story, especially among members of the Filipino community, the main source of Canada’s foreign caregiver workforce.

Pagaduan herself arrived in Toronto in 2007 under the same caregiver placement program.

“There are a lot of heartache, pain and disappointment.. killing families,” Pagaduan lamented.

Immigration department data reveals there are currently 29,000 foreign caregivers caught up in the middle of the permanent residency backlog. They wait an average of 53 months to have their applications processed.

“They are waiting and waiting and waiting,” said MP Jenny Kwan, the NDP opposition immigration critic at a recent news conference in Toronto.

“It has to stop. It can stop. It just takes political will,” Kwan added.

“The temporary nature of the caregiver program is what exposes the workers to abuse, mistreatment and the feeling of being a second-class citizen in this country,” said labor advocate Jesson Reyes of Migrante Canada, an umbrella group of 19 organizations across the country that promote the rights and welfare of Filipino migrant workers.

Godroy said it was hard to be away from her children, especially when they are sick. During the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), when her home in Leyte was flattened, Godroy scrambled across social media to locate for her daughters and son for months.

“It’s depressing,” she said.

Immigration officials said only 11,000 eligible caregivers were granted each year between 2009 and 2013, a level way below the number of applications received. This year, the government has raised the target and hoped to grant permanent resident status to as many as 20,000 caregivers and their family members, noted immigration department spokesperson Nancy Caron.

Photo credit: Toronto Star