Protestors attend an action in support of migrant worker rights in front of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, in Toronto on August 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Protestors attend an action in support of migrant worker rights in front of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, in Toronto on August 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Advocates call for migrant care worker protections, document alleged pandemic abuses

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the experiences of many migrant care workers are ‘heart-breaking’

Migrant care workers are increasingly being exploited during the COVID-19 pandemic, an advocacy group said Wednesday as it called on the federal government to bolster protections for the workers and grant them permanent resident status.

The Migrant Rights Network said a growing number of the workers who come from abroad to care for children, the sick and the elderly in employers’ homes have reported issues like underpayment of wages, longer work hours and even evictions.

The group — which has issued a report after surveying more than 200 of the workers — said some also reported being restricted from leaving their employers’ homes over fears of COVID-19.

Migrant care workers — who are in the country on permits — have little legal protection when dealing with such issues and need support from Ottawa, the group said.

“Restrictive immigration laws have produced conditions for exploitation and abuse that care workers are facing now and have faced for decades,” said Diana Da Silva, an organizer with Caregivers Action Centre, a member of Migrant Rights Network.

“These experiences are not new, but have been further exacerbated during COVID-19,” she said.

Some workers have seen their hours of work cut, which prevents them from accumulating the employment hours and pay required to apply for permanent residency, the group said.

“Permanent resident status is the single most important change that would ensure migrant care workers can protect themselves against labour exploitation,” the report said.

“(It) immediately gives workers the ability to leave a bad job and make a complaint without fear of reprisals.”

Harpreet Kaur, a migrant care worker who came to Canada from India in 2016, said in her first job in Edmonton she worked long hours each day and was paid between $600 and $700 a month. After leaving that job, it took her over a year to find another position that fulfilled strict immigration requirements.

The pandemic has now added another layer of worry, she said, with employers limiting or not permitting trips to get groceries, exercise, or send money home to family.

“During COVID-19 everyone is having a hard time,” she said. “Our employers don’t want us to go outside because they are scared of COVID.”

Karen Sivatra, a migrant worker from the Philippines, said she came to Canada in 2016 to build a better future for her family. She said the long hours she worked providing child care became even longer during the pandemic.

“When COVID-19 happened, the kids were home all the time,” she said. “I was working even more, from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. … but I was paid the same as before. I was exhausted. “

Sivatra said she recently lost her job when her employer decided to move out of the Greater Toronto Area.

If the government granted workers permanent immigration status and changed work permits that are now tied to one employer it would help workers, she said.

“How can we support our families?” she said. “If we only had permanent residency, we could find a job easily.”

READ MORE: B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the experiences of many migrant care workers are “heart-breaking”.

Not only should Canada change immigration rules to help them, but the government should also address the prolonged family separation created by the current system, she said.

“These care workers have come into Canada to take care of our children, our loved ones, our elderly people with disabilities, all in the meanwhile we’re forcing them to separate from their own family members,” she said.

Kwan said the federal government has repeatedly said it will address the issues facing migrant care workers but has taken little action.

“It’s high time that the Liberal government stopped saying that they value these workers and act like they really do and give them status on arrival,” she said.

Raquel Dancho, the Conservative immigration critic said the pandemic has brought to the forefront a number of issues regarding the treatment of migrant workers.

“The stories outlined in the report are inexcusable,” she said in a statement. “Action must be taken to ensure that these abuses no longer take place in Canada.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not immediately provide comment.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusMigrant Workers

Just Posted

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Saltair man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

(File photo)
Poverty reduction survey identifies 10 poverty themes

Poverty reduction plan will be finalized in July 2021

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly says he has no intentions of leaving the Green Party. (House of Commons image)
Island Green MPs have “no intention” of leaving the party after ‘heartbreaking’ departure

Manly, May only remaining Green MPs after Jenica Atwin left for the Liberals over internal disputes

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

A still image from security camera video recorded June 8 shows an individual lighting trash on fire in the doorway of 19+ Cannabis Store on Victoria Crescent. RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue are investigating numerous fires set in downtown Nanaimo in the past three months. (Photo submitted)
‘It’s out of control’: More than 20 fires set in downtown Nanaimo in past 3 months

Authorities asking business owners to keep dumpsters locked

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Most Read