Canada à vendre


The producer of this film about Canada’s live-in caregiver program had trouble at the very end of the production. The Commissioning Editor had approved the fine cut so the producer did all the finishing work and delivered the program. Then the Commissioning Editor decided he really didn’t like the film. It was an important client so the producer had to absorb the cost and ‘fix’ the film. I got the job and it was a pleasant one.

The live-in caregiver program is an immigration program. If you’re a nurse or a teacher or an experienced nanny and you’re poor and you live in a country without opportunities and you’re willing to work a 40 hour week for minimum wage plus free room and board for 2 years in a 3 year period … then you can come to Canada. After you’ve done your stint as a live-in caregiver you can get an open work permit and apply for landed immigrant status and then citizenship. Then you can bring your family over and they can have the opportunity to study and make decent lives for themselves.

Sounds pretty good … on paper. It’s sort of true too but it leaves out a few things and all the possibilities for abuse that are tacitly built in. First, it costs the immigrant about $5000. This money goes to an agency that helps them get through the immigration process and finds them a placement. So it’s good business for the agencies trading in these women (almost all are women). The Philippines number one export and source of foreign currency is nannies and their remittances!

But the latest scandal for the live-in caregiver is that unscrupulous agents pay Canadians $100 or so to make an application for a live-in caregiver even if they don’t want one or could never afford one. Once the application is approved the agent can bring in a woman. But then when she gets here there is no job. The press reported one agent had ten women living in her basement and she’d seized their passports so they were like slaves. Normally, it can take 6 months to a year or much longer for a live-in caregiver to come to the country. By putting in many fake applications the agent can stockpile the women so he or she is able to provide a client with a live-in caregiver almost instantly.

By far the most common abuse of live-in caregivers though, is long hours of work with no extra pay. It seems easy for employers to make them work just about all the time — whenever they need help with anything from babysitting, to cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry and changing a lightbulb, and week-ends too!

More regulation and a registry of all live-in caregivers are suggested improvements. But many think the only solution is to treat housework and care giving as a more important form of work. They say give the live-in caregiver an open work permit from the day she arrives. If she decides to do something else besides be a caregiver so be it. If the wages are increased for care giving, more will do the work. Then I guess you will have to be much richer to afford the luxury of a maid rather than more modestly rich as is the case now.