Jonathan B. Canchela
The Philippine Reporter
TORONTO -- An enormous wave of support from different organizations and communities has surged in for the ailing Filipina caregiver.
After her story carried out by national media, Juana Tejada has received a tremendous amount of support from Filipino community as well as Canadian individuals and organizations.
In fact, different groups led by Migrante-Ontario had bonded together to form the Justice for Juana Tejada Coalition to push for Tejada's case. Other members include the Community Alliance for Social Justice [CASJ], No One Is Illegal, United Steelworkers District 6, Santaginian Association of Ontario, PATAC and the Philippine Press Club of Ontario.
Migrante-Ontario is composed of various organizations, namely, AWARE-Gabay, Damayan, Filipino Migrant Workers Movement (FMWM), Migrant Family Resource Centre-Hamilton, Migrante Youth Collective, Pilipinong Migrante sa Canada-Ottawa, Pilipinong Migrante sa Barrie, U-Find. No One is Illegal is a coalition of organizations supporting non-permanent status people. CASJ is a coalition of 27 organizations and a network of 200 individuals. United Steelworkers has a membership of more than a hundred thousand in Canada. Santaginians of Ontario has more than 400 members. The Philippine Press Club is an organization of about 50 media people in the Filipino community.
The Philippine Independence Day Council (PIDC), an umbrella organization of about 300 community associations in Ontario, is supporting the cause of Juana Tejada by signing her petition and in the recent Salu-Salo sa Earl Bales picnic which was dubbed Caregivers' Day.
“I am very grateful for all the support,” Tejada told The Philippine Reporter in an interview during the PIDC celebration at Earl Bales Park.
The 39-year-old Filipina of Bangued, Abra, came to Canada in 2003 under the Live-in Caregiver Program. She decided to move here after eight years of working in Hong Kong thinking that she would later become permanent resident.
When Juana completed the 24-month requirements under the LCP, she applied for permanent residency. However, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada refused it after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer during the application process.
“While I am sympathetic to your situation, I am not satisfied that these circumstances justify granting an exemption.... In the opinion of a medical officer, this health condition might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health and social services,” a CIC case officer in Alberta told Juana in a letter.
However, “I received a call from CIC [Etobicoke office] last June 11,” said Juana. “The officer told me that my work permit which will expire on August 8 has been extended until December 10. My husband who is here on a visiting visa has also been granted with work permit,” she added.
This unexpected CIC decision came two days after the story about Tejada came out in The Toronto Star.
A graduate of Bachelor of Science in Education, Tejada worked as cashier in Manila before going to Hong Kong in 1995. She is the fifth in the brood of nine. Her parents and most of her siblings are still in Bangued. She married Noli Azada in 2000.
Last year, Noli came here to help and take care of Juana. Now he works part-time in a bakery.
Another positive development came in for Tejada last June 26. Raffy Fabregas, lawyer for Tejada, wrote in an update to members of the Coalition: “This morning, Citizenship and Immigration Canada informed Juana that they will also be covering all her previous medical expenses from the time her OHIP expired in August 2007. The decision to cover these expenses is extremely unusual, and in fact this is the only time anybody in our office has ever seen it occur.”
“I have no doubt that this generous and much appreciated gesture by Citizenship and Immigration Canada came only because of the growing support Juana is getting from the community, from Canadians, and from around the world,” Fabregas added.
Migrante-Ontario spearheaded a picket rally in front of the CIC office at 5343 Dundas West, Toronto, last June 27. Many allied organizations were present to show support for Juana and all the migrant workers. MP Peggy Nash, NDP, was one of the personalities present.
Although Tejada did not make it to the rally, she was supportive of the move. “Any kind of help is welcome. I also need your prayers and moral support,” she said.
A trust fund has been set for Juana, according to Fabregas. Donors are welcome to give to “Juana Tejada in Trust,” account no. 000-10522-1298, TD Canada Trust, 110 Yonge St. Toronto, M5C 1T4. Deposits may be made at any TD branch. Donors can also use wire transfers, Swift Code: TDOMCATTTOR, ABA #: 26009593.
Although CIC has offered to foot previous medical expenses, “under the federal health plan offered by CIC, not all expenses are covered, and certainly any coverage is not to the extent that OHIP would cover them,” Fabregas explained.
“We have yet to see how much is actually going to be paid by CIC, and how much is not. Moreover, the medication Juana needs is not covered. So money still needs to be raised for her medical expenses,” he added.