February 25, 2019 / Toronto – OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants welcomes the new immigrant pilot programs for Caregivers, announced by Minister Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship on Saturday February 23, 2019.
The new programs will give migrant care workers occupation specific work permits, allowing more flexibility to change employers. They will allow workers to bring family members on arrival, with open work permits for spouses and study permits for children. The new programs are to assess applicants before they begin working in Canada and provide a pathway for permanent residency.
“This is a significant win for migrant care workers in Canada who have fighting for so long to end worker exploitation and faster family reunification” said Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of OCASI. “We hope to see future changes to the permanent immigration program so that care workers and workers in other occupations and in all skills levels can come permanently rather than as temporary migrant workers” she added.
OCASI has called for permanent resident status on arrival for migrant care workers as a matter of fairness, and one of the most effective ways to address worker exploitation and many other serious concerns including long family separation. The proposed new pilot programs are a tremendous improvement but don’t go far enough. The government has continued to apply a cap on the new pilot programs, set at 5,500 applications per year.
OCASI has also called on the government of Canada to address other long-standing concerns of migrant care workers including:
- Open work permits
- Remove onerous language and post-secondary education requirements to qualify for permanent residence
- Remove applications caps
- Eliminate excessive demand provisions in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA)
- Allow migrant care workers with precarious immigration status to apply for permanent residence.
IRPA excessive demand provisions have resulted in the denial of permanent residence for migrant care workers and the entire family if any member of the family has a disability or chronic illness. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration recommended in 2017 that this provision should be removed from the Act.
There is an urgent need for a regularization program for those migrant care workers who have not been able to gain permanent residence status over the years. Some have worked here for decades in a situation of precarious immigration status.
OCASI awaits further details about the new pilot programs including the scheduled start date, application criteria, requirements for permanent residence, settlement resources for workers and their families, mechanism to deal with workers in the current program, and resources to deal with processing backlogged files and new applications.
Current migrant caregiver pilot programs are scheduled to end in November 2019. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is accepting applications for the Interim Pathway for caregivers from March 4 to June 4, 2019.