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Advocates call on Ottawa to reform rules for thousands of migrant care workers

Advocates called on the federal government on International Women’s Day to overhaul what they say are unfair rules for migrant care workers in Canada.

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, an advocacy group, organized a panel of speakers on Friday to draw attention to two five-year caregiver pilot programs, the Home Child Care Provider Pilot and Home Support Worker Pilot, that are set to expire on June 17. 

The alliance says the programs, which are specifically for applicants with work experience in care giving, are a pathway to permanent residency in Canada.

“These programs are scheduled to terminate on June 17, 2024, but thousands of care workers are already unable to apply for permanent residency and are at risk of deportation due to unreasonably high language and education requirements,” the group says. 

Among the language requirements is a required English test score of level 5, exceeding even the requirement for Canadian citizenship, the group says.

The federal government’s website indicates applicants must demonstrate that they have attained that proficiency in either English or French in reading, writing, speaking and listening. They must prove that they have completed one year post-secondary educational credential or a foreign educational credential equivalent.

Jhoey Dulaca, an organizer of the alliance, said migrant care workers are mostly racialized women, many from the Philippines and Indonesia, who come to Canada to look after children, the sick, and elderly people.

She said getting permanent residency is already a punishing task for thousands of migrant care workers. And the imminent closure of the two pilot programs, both of which started in 2019, will leave many more workers in limbo.

“Together we are here to call on Prime Minister Trudeau to give all migrant care workers in Canada permanent resident status for all without education and English requirements,” Dulaca said.

Dulaca said the group demands that the government regularize all undocumented care workers, provide a path to permanent residency without strenuous language and education requirements and to remove caps on how many permanent residency applications can be processed.

Workers ‘don’t know what’s next,’ advocate says

Arlene Aguillon, a care worker from the Philippines, said she works gruelling hours looking after three children, and has not been able to get her education accredited. 

“My hair has started falling off and it caused me depression,” she said.

Migrant workers won the right to study in 2023, but the alliance says many are unable to pay high international tuition fees or study while working full-time.

Mary Gellatly, a community legal worker with Parkdale Community Legal Services, said many workers “don’t know what’s next” because the government hasn’t made it clear.

“Many people are living in limbo, worried about what’s going to happen,” Gellalty said.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not respond to requests by CBC Toronto for comment.

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