In Canada, 95 percent of those under the live-in caregive program are Filipino women. Some of them are now being threatened with deportation due to failure to comply with the rules set by the Canadian government which even its citizens find unjust. Not surprisingly, concerned groups and individuals in Canada have shown solidarity with the beleaguered Filipino live-in caregivers by organizing a national day of protest last Friday the 13th.
BY SIKLAB ONTARIO
Contributed to Bulatlat
TORONTO – The office of Citizenship and Immigration Minister Joe Volpe refused to receive a petition signed by some 1,000 people from across Canada demanding a stop to the unjust deportation of Filipino live-in caregivers.
Chanting, “Migrants’ rights are human rights! Stop the deportation of Filipino live-in caregivers!” some 40 activists and sympathizers led by Siklab-Ontario (National Alliance of Filipino Migrant Workers in Canada; siklab is Filipino word for flare) brought the petitions as they held a protest action in front of Volpe’s campaign headquarters on Avenue road last January 13.
The protest was part of the National Day of Protest against the unjust deportation of Filipino live-in caregivers. Similar mass actions were done in Montreal and Vancouver.
With instructions from the minister’s headquarters, police officers earlier tried to dissuade organizers from holding the protest, saying the minister was not in the office and that “only volunteers are there and they cannot take anything you want delivered to the minister.” The protesters however stood their ground and proceeded with the militant but peaceful mass action.
Siklab-Ontario was joined by members of the Philippine Women Centre, the Filipino-Canadian Youth Alliance (UKPC-Toronto), the Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ) and friends from the Justice for Jeffrey (J4J) Coalition, Intercede, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), the People’s Front and No One is Illegal campaign.
Plight of Filipino live-in caregivers
Reading from her organization’s statement, Siklab Vice Chairperson Yolyn Valenzuela said, “In the last six years alone, 95 percent who came under the live-in caregiver program (LCP) were Filipino women thus highlighting the need by Canada for cheap labor and the ‘forced’ migration of Filipino women. We are hailed as ‘modern-day heroes,’ but in fact, we are ‘modern-day slaves.’ The government does not take into account the oppressive working and living conditions of live-in caregivers. Instead, it penalizes live-in caregivers with its inhumane implementation of an exploitative and racist policy. Canada must be held accountable to the thousands of live-in caregivers who toil under the LCP.”
Live-in caregivers are subject to arbitrary and unjust deportation for failure to complete the requirements of the LCP. “In the majority of cases, the deportations are due to the live-in caregiver’s inability to complete the required 24 months of live-in work within three years of entering Canada,” says Cynthia Palmaria of the Philippine Women Centre of Ontario. “Citizenship and Immigration Canada also tricks the caregivers through the expansion of its temporary worker program. Some live-in caregivers facing deportation were given an extension of their working visas, not under the LCP but under the temporary worker program, thus depriving them of the chance to apply for permanent residency.”
Now running for reelection, CIC Minister Volpe last year promised to review the LCP in order to address the urgent issues arising from it. To date, Siklab claimed, there has been no review, but only lip service made by an administration “adamantly refusing to take responsibility for its policies.”
LCP affects children, too
“But the impact of the LCP does not fall on the women alone. It also affects their children.” Grace Montesclaros of the Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada (UKPC or Filipino-Canadian Youth Alliance-Toronto chapter) stressed, “If the live-in caregivers have children who are born in Canada, these children – who are Canadian citizens – face permanent separation from their mothers.” Children whose mothers have lost their immigration status in Canada are denied access to benefits such as medical care, housing, welfare and subsidized child care even though they are Canadian citizens.
She added, “In our community, there is a disturbing trend of youth dropping out of high school. Many children of domestic workers end up working in low-paying, service or factory work jobs just like their parents. This is especially true of those who are forced to drop out of high school. And children of domestic workers are not exempt from racial profiling of Filipino youth by police. As an organization fighting for the rights and welfare of Filipino Canadian youth, we view the impact of the LCP as an urgent issue as they affect the youth – and hence, the future – of our community.”
Philippine and Canadian governments called to task
CASJ Chairperson Edwin Mercurio recalled Volpe’s statement at a Philippine Independence Day Council gala night in Toronto where the CIC minister said that the “Filipino caregivers are the backbone and modern-day heroes of Canadian society.”
Mercurio said that ironically, these “modern-day heroes” are ignored whenever they call for help to stem the tide of systemic abuse committed against them by their employers. Research conducted by CASJ and the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada revealed that caregivers continue to be exploited, abused, assaulted, raped and in many cases fired when they get sick or pregnant. Worse, they are unjustly deported.
In April 2005, Siklab launched this campaign calling for a moratorium on deportation of Filipino live-in caregivers. The issue had been raised since then to the attention of CIC Minister Joe Volpe through a formal letter; but no reply was received addressing the community’s concerns.
“The Philippine government does not help them either,” Mercurio adds. “All that the Philippine government wants is the overseas Filipino workers’ remittances reaching some US$10.3 billion in 2005 that help keep the Philippine economy afloat.”
“On the other hand, the Canadian government continues to wash its hands when confronted with data and statistics, documented case studies and valid complaints about rampant abuse, exploitation by their employers and the Canadian government’s lack of legal, medical, housing and educational support for participants of the LCP,” he said.
In Montreal, a mixed group of over 20 community supporters and members of Siklab-Montreal gathered outside the metro station in the heart of the Filipino community as passers-by signed petitions. An information forum was held later in the evening attended by 40 members of the community.
The national day of protest ended in Vancouver with a vigil-rally for live-in caregivers already unjustly deported from Canada outside the regional headquarters of CIC. Over 80 people gathered, holding candles while listening to representatives from the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS), the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada, as well as representatives from the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and the Hospital Employees Union.
Paying tribute to those women who had been forcibly deported from Canada over the last few years, Siklab-Canada vowed to continue calling for an end to the unjust deportation of Filipino live-in caregivers and the scrapping of the LCP. Bulatlat.com