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Toronto Star, 12 December 2004

Nannies seek program changes
Groups want `live-in' requirement scrapped

"Advocates say some nannies are financially exploited and even sexually abused. But because they're concerned about jeopardizing their immigration status (the paperwork to switch jobs can take months), some remain in unhealthy situations. "

Position paper lays out `human rights issues'
SCOTT SIMMIE AND MELISSA LEONG
STAFF REPORTERS

The inbox of Citizenship and Immigration Minister Judy Sgro saw a lot of action last week. 
Eight Filipino community groups in and around the GTA have been faxing or mailing a common position paper, along with hundreds of signatures, recommending widespread changes to the federal program that brings nannies and caregivers to this country. 

Those changes include scrapping two of the federal Live-in Caregiver Program's (LCP) key requirements: that nannies "live-in" the home of their employers, and that they fulfill two years of work within a three-year period to qualify to apply for permanent residence status. 
"That's the main focus, to eliminate that obligatory live-in requirement and give them landed status right away," says Flor Dandal, executive director of the Kababayan Community Centre, an organization that helps newcomers and specializes in assisting Filipinas. 

For years, Ottawa has been told of flaws in the program, under which thousands of nannies and caregivers come to Canada every year in the hope of becoming citizens. Though many of those people have positive, rewarding relationships in the households of their employers, others do not. 

Advocates say some nannies are financially exploited and even sexually abused. But because they're concerned about jeopardizing their immigration status (the paperwork to switch jobs can take months), some remain in unhealthy situations. 

"Research studies and national consultations have already identified a number of equality and human rights issues resulting from the LCP," states the position paper, "including increased vulnerability to abuse, including rape, because of the mandatory live-in requirement and their temporary immigration status." 

The paper also wants a crackdown on unlicensed, unregulated "agencies" that charge thousands of dollars for their services. Some of the more shadowy outfits bring people for jobs that don't exist, filing elaborate but fake applications from "employers" which somehow slip by federal scrutiny. 

"They're employers in paper only. So there's a conspiracy between recruiters in the Philippines and people (agencies) here just to get money from some of the caregivers and not really provide them with employment," says Agnes Mae Manasan, co-ordinator of the Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program, Catholic Community Services of York Region. 

The community groups want Ottawa and the provinces to step in and regulate those agencies. The position paper also proposes a body to monitor employers to ensure they're following the terms of the contract they signed with their nanny or caregiver.
"If you cannot do anything about fundamental change, then we're calling for the scrapping of this program," says Cecilia Diocson, chair of the Vancouver-based National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada. 

Ottawa is in the midst of a lengthy review of the program and recommendations are expected next year. 

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