Why would a government reject a most vulnerable
Juana Tejada who has contributed years of her life serving Canada?
The Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ) and the Coalition for the Protection of Caregivers' Rights (CPCR) appreciate the extension given by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to Juana Tejada and her husband's Temporary Work Permit (TWP) until December 2008. Juana and her husband are extremely grateful for the extension of their visas. But, given Juana's dire medical condition, we find it unconscionable that the federal government continues to refuse to give her permanent residency status based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Not having permanent residency status disqualifies Juana from accessing medical treatment in Canada.
Juana, like all foreign live-in caregivers, had undergone rigorous medical and physical examination by a physician certified by the Canadian government overseas, one of the requirements to get into the Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP). When she arrived in Canada in 2003 to work under the LCP, she did not have cancer. She, in fact, provided care to a set of twins. She completed the LCP's 24 month live-in requirement within the prescribed period of 3 years. Unfortunately, it was during the medical examination required for her permanent residency status that she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Much research and literature on caregiving have shown that it is the most demanding and stressful work -- paid or not. It has been documented many times that care providers would end up having compromised their health, particularly if they don't have the necessary social and institutional support systems.
It should not come as a surprise that the number of live-in caregivers afflicted with mental and life-threatening illnesses continues to grow. We don't keep tab of how many caregivers have been sent home due to cancer, extreme mental and other medical illnesses. Caregiving is a woman's job. But if done by a poor and racialized caregiver, no matter how important the work is, it is invisible and devalued in our society.
Juana started her justice campaign on June 11, 2008,which is about the same time that the Ontario government launch its Safe at Work Ontario Strategic Plan . It is ironic that there, Labour Minister Brad Duguid, was quoted as saying that, “the McGuinty government and its workplace partners are committed to eliminating all workplace injuries. Workers have a right to come home each day to their families, safe and sound.”
Do foreign live-in caregivers tied to specific employers have the right that the Honorable Minister Duguid was talking about? (They are made to live in their employers' homes and their families are overseas and not allowed to live with them in Canada.) Are the basic employment, occupational health and safety standards being monitored where caregivers live and work? (We still have to see the caregivers' workplace which is their employers' homes, monitored by the provincial labour ministry.)
We are not saying that all caregivers have abusive employers, but we all know that the LCP requirements set the context for the caregivers to work and live in conditions that are considered unsafe, unhealthy, exploitative and fatal. And if you add to the mix, the neglect to the caregivers' rights and welfare by labor-sending and –receiving governments, you have a recipe for precarious and disastrous job situations for caregivers.
Elenita Pailanan, Elisa Elumbra, Acier Gomes, Elenora Carag are just some of the many caregivers, who went home to die, to give birth to their children, and to face the difficult life of having disability as damaged caregivers.
At the moment, Juana is not the only caregiver who needs medical treatment and social service support. There are other caregivers who are ill and needing care and support. We salute them for their courage to continue living, working a little bit here and there, despite the lack of government assistance; despite being derided by others as causing excessive demands on Canadian health care and social services. We should talk about them, shed light on their struggles so we can learn more about how they cope with life with grace and dignity.
These caregivers are supported by fellow caregivers who are struggling as newcomers with financial and settlement concerns, and yet their compassion and generosity shine. They are not afraid to share whatever little material things they have.
Certainly, we salute Juana's courage for coming out with her battle against cancer and her fight against regressive and unfair government policies and its regulations. Her struggle highlights the plight of other caregivers who are in similar situations.
Every year, almost 7, 000 live-in caregivers enter Canada under the LCP. 76.5% of them are of Filipino heritage. And when you look at the number and add up how much care-giving dollars the caregivers have contributed to the nation building of Canada and to their home countries, Juana and the community of caregivers are our heroes. They are not asking for preferential treatment. They are asking for fairness and respect for the contribution they have paid to our society many times over.
All of us know that the governments' actions do not reflect the true Canadian spirit. Deporting a dying caregiver back to the Third World, instead of providing her with the medical care afforded to Canadian residents, is callous and unjust. Canadians have reacted with outrage, and justifiably so. Therefore, we should unite and embrace Juana's struggle as she fights for her life in Canada.
We ask the federal and provincial governments to respond to Juana's and our community's demand that she get her permanent residency soon so that she and her husband can remain in Canada. We ask the Ontario government to allow Juana to receive treatment in Canada, covered by OHIP.
Generosity, kindness and compassion have long been treasured Canadian values. The Canadian and the Ontario governments should not lose sight of these facts in its treatment of Juana Tejada, and other caregivers who are in similar struggles for a dignified life, especially in those times when they are most vulnerable.
Justice for Juana Tejada! Justice for all Caregivers!
Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ)
A coalition of 27 organizations and a network of 200 individuals
Coalition for the Protection of Caregivers' Rights (CPCR)
Jocelyn Dulnuan Support Committee (JDSC)
Contact person: Pura Velasco (416-361-6319), firstname.lastname@example.org
June 20, 2008