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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

Follow public health recommendations, says Interior Health as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Revelstoke. (Image courtesy CDC)
Revelstoke positive COVID cases grows to 29

Interior Health announced a cluster in the community on Nov. 26

Figure skaters in the old skating rink in the 1940s. 
(Revelstoke Museum and Archives photo 4034)
Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Nov. 26

A look a local history as recorded by the newspaper

Cst. Dane Storey was recognized as a member of Alexa’s Team, a provincial recognition paying tribute to police officers who make an extraordinary contribution to reducing the number of impaired drivers on the roads. (Submitted/Revelstoke RCMP)
Alexa’s Team awarded to Revelstoke RCMP officer

Cst. Dane Storey removed 59 impaired drivers from B.C. roads in 2019

Revelstoke Mountain Resort opens for the season tomorrow, Nov. 27, 2020. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Know before you go: Revelstoke Mountain Resort opens tomorrow

Masks are mandatory, lineup opens at 6:30 a.m.

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Dentice di Frasso, a member of Italian nobility, once owned land in Summerland. (Contributed)
Italian nobility family once lived in Summerland

Dentice di Frasso and his family owned land in the Prairie Valley area

Summerland residents have been receiving a telephone scam with the number showing as the telephone number of the local RCMP detachment. (Black Press Media files)
Summerland RCMP telephone number spoofed in scam calls

Number used in scam attempts from tax agency

(Village of Lumby photo)
Mysterious, loud ‘boom’ shakes North Okanagan residents

Village staff, Earthquakes Canada aren’t sure what caused the explosion-like sound

Clarence Fulton students collect cash and non-perishable food donations for families in need in their community Friday, Nov. 27. (Jennifer Smith  - Morning Star)
North Okanagan students collect food for families in need

Annual event to support nine school families this year

Take a break from the slopes to discover the rich culture and diversity of Vernon. Michelle Beaudry photo, courtesy Tourism Vernon.
Tourism Vernon could see 40% cut to budget due to COVID-19

New approach to help residents and visitors activate their adventures

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Penticton law courts
Osoyoos child sex offender in court

Shawn Titus, 37, is charged with possession of child porn

Most Read