For Mother’s Day, Alberta Careworkers Association (ACA) has compiled these stories touching on the themes that burden many care workers: family separation, struggles with immigration and abuses at workplaces. As well, the stories are in support of the care workers’ campaign for decent work and status for all.
Living in the shadows: Cora’s story
Cora (not her real name) is among hundreds of foreign workers who have become undocumented while waiting for a new work permit. After 10 years of working in Canada, she is still waiting to get a status in Canada.
Like many others, she was a temporary foreign worker. Because of pay inequity, unreasonably long work hours without getting paid for over time, false promises of work permit, abuse, oppression, racism and discrimination she experienced from not one but multiple employers, she was forced to move from one employer to another.
She applied for work permit in between employment however, due to long processing time and government policy changes, she did not always get work permit on time. At one point, she was holding a Live-in-Caregiver work permit. When it was time to renew it, she was told by IRCC that she was not eligible to hold such work permit.
“What’s frustrating about the wait to get a status in Canada is the lengthy processing time – I am now unable to sponsor two of my children because they have aged out as my dependants.”
Anxious to obtain status through the recent pathway to residency program by the Canadian government and for a chance to finally reunite (sponsor) with her family, she sought the service of an immigration consultant, paying thousands of dollars as initial payment. She will be due to pay thousands more when she gets approved for permanent residence.
“I hope to see the government remove the English requirement,” she says. She wants the government to make it easier to apply for a work permit, for example, only requiring for LMIA when renewing work permit for one employer.
Ilora’s story: Every caregiver and mother’s plea for family reunification
Ilora Catacutan has spent eleven years separated from her family. In 2010, she left Philippines to work in Hong Kong, and eventually to Canada in 2015.
Every year, she goes home to the Philippines and spends two weeks to a month with her family. She said that separation has caused breakdown in her family relationships.
“Lumalaki ang mga anak ko na wala ako”. Her children are ages 12, 14 and 17. Ilora has missed a lot of their important events, graduation and birthdays.
She also misses the Philippines’ food, culture, family occasions, and spending summertime and holidays with her family.
“Sana hindi na kami pahirapan,” she said, referring to the government’s circuitous and oftentimes dizzying immigration program. She would like the English requirement and education assessment removed, and permanent status upon arrival.
Jocelyn’s fight for permanent status
Jocelyn Santos arrived in Canada in 2011 as a temporary foreign worker from Taiwan, six months after paying approximately $7,000 USD to an employment agency.
She later found out after arriving in Edmonton that the agency and the restaurant owners who hired her colluded to profit from trafficking foreign workers. She worked only several hours a week in violation of her contract. With earnings not enough, she decided to transfer to a Tim Hortons branch and worked there for two months.
Like many TFWs, she had wanted to have permanent status in Canada, but her work permit was restrictive. She found an employer who was willing to hire her as a caregiver under the live-in-caregiver program. She completed the 24-months requirement, having no idea that she had to exit and re-enter a border in order to update her visa before transitioning into the caregiver work permit. This derailed her chance of obtaining a PR status. Worse, the denial included an order for removal in 2 weeks. As per advice from a friend, she applied for status under humanitarian and compassionate grounds which was also denied. She decided to stay in Canada and take her chances.
Jocelyn paid $3500 to an agency in order to extend her stay thru an open work permit. In March 2016, she received another letter of denial for PR status. Having no status meant she had to endure not being paid the right salary by her employer. She left in February 2017, hoping for a better situation. Another employer hired her to take care of an old couple. She suffered verbal abuse everyday and when the old woman was hospitalized, she was not paid any wages for “missed work”.
She went home to the Philippines in May 2018 with no plans of coming back. After 3 weeks, her employer called her and asked if she wanted to return, so she did but several months later, her dependant died in Oct 2018. She was able to find another employer who received a positive LMIA and with that she was able to apply for a valid caregiver work permit.
With the announcement of the new pathway that comes into effect May 6, she is hopeful that her wish of becoming a PR will come true. The language exam however is making her nervous, afraid that she might not make the set benchmark. She finds it helpful being in the language review program being run by Migrante Alberta.
Jocelyn is hopeful obtaining a permanent status remains within reach although, the hope to reunite with her three children was dashed by the government from her last application for PR. Another application in the future would mean only her youngest would be included since the other two are now past the age to qualify.
She prays that the Canadian government will remove the obstacles that prevent migrants like her and others who are already in Canada in obtaining their PR. Instead of focusing on new applicants f
rom outside Canada, she opined the government should focus in giving permanent status to those who are already here but have been denied residence because of too many restrictions and very high qualifications that applicants like her would not be able to meet.
Connie’s story of courage, resilience and advocacy
Connie Monana’s resilience is true of many migrant workers who have weathered many battles. She is using her new found advocacy and voice to empower caregivers like her to fight for their rights and not back down.
Connie is a midwife by profession. Absent opportunities, Connie never practiced midwifery in the Philippines but remained in the health sector as a medical secretary and a nurse aide for six years.
Her experiences landed her in Canada in 2011, after paying an agency a hefty Php200,000 (approx. Cad $5,100). After a year of working at a seniors’ facility in St. Albert, Alberta, she worked for another employer as a caregiver.
For a year, she was verbally and financially abused by her employer who was struggling to fight alcohol addiction. To make matters worse, her employer failed to submit official records of her salary to Canada Revenue Agency, omitting the long hours of work Connie had put in. Connie eventually quit after more than a year of suffering and moved on to another employer again, as a caregiver.
Although Connie’s situation improved, the 4-in, 4-out rule threatened her stay in Canada. She was deceived i
nto having a student visa to get a post-graduate open work permit through Solomon College – the school that allegedly victimized desperate migrants like Connie.
A third employment as a caregiver paved the way for Connie to complete the two-year requirement for caregivers and on May 4, 2021, she submitted her application for PR and open work permit.
In December 2018, Connie attended an event by Migrante which sparked her advocacy to fight for caregivers rights. “As a vulnerable sector, we should have groups that provide us courage, with whom we can seek refuge.”
“Dapat nilang malaman na hindi nila kailangang sikmurahin ang mga pang-aabuso sa kanila, hindi sila etsapuwera,” she said, addressing caregivers who are going through difficult times like she had.
Meeting aggrieved caregivers is what making Connie busy these days, hoping she could pay forward the help she received.