Community News and Views

 

IMMIGRATION

Six-month extension no solution
for cancer-stricken nanny



Guidy Mamann

Guidy Mamann
Barrister and Solicitor

It's considered un-sportsmanlike to kick a person when they're down.

This is especially true when the fallen is such a selfless person as Juana Tejada.

Juana is a nanny who is a client of my firm and her story was first published in the Toronto Star on June 9th.

In 1995, this nanny left her home in the Philippines to work abroad so that she could support her family, including her six siblings. For eight years, she worked hard looking after other people's children so that she could support her relatives back home.

 

In 2003, she arrived in Canada under our Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP).

The deal under the LCP is that nannies must provide at least two years of service to one or more Canadian families within the first three years of their arrival here. If so, they can apply for permanent residence.

It's a pretty good deal for both. We Canadians get someone to look after our kids while we are off at work. In turn, the nanny gets a new life here.

Since they will be looking after young children or the elderly, nannies must pass a full medical test before they are issued a work permit under this program. Once they complete their two years of service, they must undergo medicals again as part of the processing of the permanent residence application.

Accordingly -- unlike any other category of immigrants -- nannies have to undergo and pass more than one medical.

Tragically, after faithfully serving Canadian families for two years, Juana underwent her second medical only to discover that she has cancer and only a five per cent chance of surviving another five years.

What does the LCP offer her for upholding her end of the bargain? The refusal of her application.

How about her request for a bit of that world-famous Canadian compassion?

“While I am sympathetic to your situation, I am not satisfied that these circumstances justify granting an exemption” she was told in a letter from CIC.

This is not the first time we have seen such a problem.

In 2004, another Filipino nanny, Laila Suan Elumbra, came to Canada and just two months before completing her two years of service in Montreal, she suffered an attack of porphyria and fell into a four-month coma. She was unable to complete her service within the time allowed and was ordered to leave Canada in August 2006. Luckily for her, she was landed in February 2008 but only after marrying a Canadian citizen and thereby qualifying for an exemption to our usual medical requirements.

After a flurry of media exposure last week, Juana and her husband were issued temporary resident permits that will expire in six months (two weeks before Christmas). They were also given work permits -- primarily so that her husband can work and contribute to some of the costs of her medication.

While welcome, this development is not a solution as Juana will, in all likelihood, still be sick in six months and will still be inadmissible to Canada. The government might be hoping that the media and the public will forget about Juana by Christmas. However, I would rather believe that our government will be using this time to seek a solution to the double jeopardy created by the LCP.

There is no question that because of our universal health care system, Canada should be very careful about admitting anyone who may likely place a burden on this system.

However, in the case of nannies, once they have passed medicals and spent two years working and paying taxes here, we should not be singling them out for a second round of exams that can only disclose illnesses which they could not have been aware of at the time of their arrival.

It seems to me that we simply cannot claim as damaged goods a nanny who has given us two to three years of her life on grounds that are tragic and beyond her control.

If we did, what kind of sportsmanship will we be teaching our kids?

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Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann & Associates and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at reporter@migrationlaw.com.

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