By: Lesley Valiente and Sarah Salise
Kenneth Aldovino received a letter in the mail asking him to leave the country before the end of January. Aldovino has been in Canada for 6 months, initially arriving just in time to see his mother, Edna Aldovino, for the last time before she passed away of cancer in July of 2013.
Prior to her passing, Edna worked in Canada under the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) since 2009 and in 2012, completed the requirements that make her and her family eligible for permanent resident status. Completing these requirements was difficult as Edna was diagnosed with breast cancer in February of 2011 and continued working while undergoing chemotherapy treatments to ensure that she complete the requirements that would allow her to apply for permanent residency. Edna’s years of hard work and sacrifice, unfortunately, will not fulfill their purpose of bringing Kenneth to live in Canada as the processing of his application stops with the death of his mother, who was the primary applicant on their papers.
Canada’s Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) is geared for Canadian families looking to hire a foreign caregiver because the availability of local workers are lacking. The program is meant for temporary employment but Canada is one of the few countries that promote the LCP to migrant workers as a way for them to work abroad and at the same time earn their permanent residency status. Live-in caregivers have up to four years to complete the requirement of 3, 900 hours or 24 months of full-time employment to be eligible to apply for permanent residency. In Ontario, live-in caregivers are paid a minimum wage of $10.86 per hour and work for up to 48 hours a week.
A community-led campaign called ‘Let Kenneth Stay’ is now in full swing, with organizers collecting letters of support and circulating online petitions to encourage Minister of Immigration, Hon. Chris Alexander to use his discretionary powers and allow Kenneth’s permanent residency application to process. Having lost his mother so early in life, Kenneth will face great difficulty if forced to return to the Philippines where he will have no family and no financial support. In fact, thousands of young, educated Filipinos leave the Philippines everyday in search for jobs abroad – an illustration of the lack of employment opportunities within the country. If given the chance to stay in Canada, Kenneth has a support group within the community and will have the chance to study and work to build a new life for himself. Community organizers are hopeful that Kenneth’s application for permanent residency will be considered under humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Letters of support as well as petition signatures are of great importance at this time in putting pressure on the government to act in Kenneth’s favour.”Let Kenneth Stay” campaign has also been gaining supporters and followers throughout Canada and in the U.S. on Facebook.
According to the Filipino youth organization, Anakbayan Toronto, there is a bigger issue at play in cases such as Edna’s: the lack of status accorded to workers under the Live-In Caregiver Program. Since caregivers are seen as a source of “temporary work” and not as immediate candidates for citizenship, these workers must migrate to Canada alone, undergoing separation from their families. Edna herself left home in 1999 when Kenneth was just five years old and migrated to work in Taiwan, Kuwait, Singapore and Hong Kong before coming to Canada. In addition to the emotional strain of being away from one’s family, live-in caregivers undergo difficult working conditions, finding themselves on call around the clock as the needs of the elderly and of the young for whom they provide care do not end after an 8-hour workday. Such arduous labour takes a physical toll on the body after time, and it is not surprising to find that many caregivers, like Edna, eventually display serious medical problems. While there is an economic pull factor for foreigners to work as a live-in caregiver in Canada, it cannot be denied that the true aspiration for these workers is to eventually live in Canada permanently with their families. In the case of Edna Aldovino, denying her son the right to claim his permanent residency does an injustice to Edna and renders her years of hard work and sacrifice meaningless.