Canada

Country Profile



Facts & Figures

In the last two decades more and more domestic migrant workers are entering Canada through programs provided by the government: the successful applications almost quadrupled from 2003 to 2009, reaching 12,454.1 90% of applicants to the Live-in Caregiver program are from the Philippines and the remaining traveled mainly from India, Slovakia, Jamaica, and England. 2

The province that welcomes the highest number of domestic migrant workers is Ontario, followed by British Columbia, and Alberta.3

Despite the fact that many live-in caregivers are highly educated, domestic care workers keep being considered “low-skilled” therefore they are significantly underpaid in comparison to “highly skilled” care jobs, like nursing. In the domestic care sector, child care is an especially undervalued sector in Canada. 4

Legal Framework

HISTORICAL EVOLUTION


The current legal framework is the result of several policies applied through the years and carries the legacy of the earliest West Indian Domestic Scheme (1955). The program opened the country’s doors to women aged 18 to 35, single, with no dependent children, and a minimum level of education corresponding to 8th grade. Once admitted, the workers were sent to a home in a city of their choice and work for one year, after which they would be granted landed immigrant status.5


In 1973, with the Temporary Employment Authorization Program, Canada introduced the possibility for migrants to access the country on short-term work permits.This caused a spike in the use of disposable migrant work to fulfill occupational sectors that already lack adequate remuneration and protection, including in-home domestic services.6


In 1981, the Foreign Domestic Movement Program introduced further constraints to the application for landed immigrant status: financial, linguistic, and occupational parameters had to be met, as well as two years of live-in service with a designated employer, who could be changed only after approval from a federal immigration officer.7


In 1992, the Live-in caregiver program was introduced as a part of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Before their arrival, domestic migrant workers needed practical experience, formal education and linguistic skills. After the approval, they could enter Canada as temporary workers and their work permits were tied to a specific employer. In case they wanted to change their employer, they had to find a new one by themselves and apply for a new work permit, which was processed in 6 to 12 months.8


In 2014 the government introduced the Caring for Children and People and Caring for People with High Medical Needs. This program has two paths – childcare and health care – but each hold a maximum of 2,750 places per year. Caregivers are no longer obliged to live in the employer’s home but they still need to give proof of language and educational attainments. After two working years, they are eligible to become permanent residents. 9


In 2019, the Home Child Care Provider and Home Support Worker removed the employer-specific work permit allowing domestic care workers to change their employer more easily. Programs are now being updated almost every year, the most recent one do not apply to all provinces which still apply the Live-in Care Program.10


RIGHTS AT WORK

Workers need to be paid at least their minimum wage. In Canada this varies according to the province. In Ontario it amounts to $14.35 an hour.



In exchange for certain provisions, the employer can make deductions from the employee’s wage; this depends on the Caregiver program the employee is hired with:

The following deductions apply to employees who are under Live-In Caregiver Program and received an LMIA permit before November 30, 2014:

  • Private Room weekly: $31.70

  • Non-private room: $0

  • Meals Weekly: $53.55 or $2.55 per meal

  • Room and Meals Weekly: $85.25

If an employee owns a LMIA-based work permit and was hired under the Caregiver Program after November 30, 2014, then no deductions apply for room and board.11 12

Complaints

The most prominent complaint from domestic migrant workers concerns the provision of landed immigrant status, i.e., permanent residence. The process immigrant workers go through to obtain such status requires them to face several challenges as well as to wait for a long time; as a result, domestic migrant workers become more prone to accept low wages, long working hours, and mistreatment from their employers.13


A further issue that the migrant domestic workers community has raised concerns the language and educational requirements needed to achieve permanent residence. According to many immigrant workers, obtaining these qualifications is expensive, time consuming, and discriminatory.14


Domestic care work is still not valued enough: it is considered inherently unskilled, as well as dangerous, demeaning, and dirty. This view is an obstacle to any improvement in domestic care work: training is never really considered and even the need for safety measures - which is crucial in other sectors - is not contemplated.15


Canada is currently not investing much into the care economy; activists ask governments to devote resources to a social security fund for care workers - including domestic workers -, also given the negative impact of Covid on these specific categories.16

RESOURCES


Caregivers’ Action Centre

The organization includes current and former caregivers and advocates for fair employment, permanent immigration status, and access to settlement services.


Caregiver Connections, Education and Support Organization (CCESO)

It provides a range of free programs and activities that help domestic and care workers build confidence, self-esteem, and leadership skills.


Migrante Alberta

As a non-profit advocacy and self-help organization, it provides assistance through referrals, advocate and campaign on migrants’ issues. They work closely with labour unions and community based organizations.


Migrant Rights Network

Alliance covering the whole country which aims at fighting racism and achieving migrant justice.


Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

The organization fight for the rights of migrant farmworkers, care workers, students and more.


Migrant Workers Center

MWC is a non-profit organization dedicated to legal advocacy for migrant workers in BC. It provides free legal advocacy services to migrant workers.


PINAY

This not-for-profit grassroots organization targets migrant and immigrant Filipino women, in particular domestic workers, to combat for their basic rights and welfare.


Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers' and Caregivers' Rights

CDWCR is a community-based, non-profit organization that provides assistance to foreign care workers in seeking improvements to their employment conditions and immigration status.


SOURCES

  1. Kelly, P., Park, S., de Leon, C., & Priest, J. (2011). PROFILE OF LIVE-IN CAREGIVER IMMIGRANTS TO CANADA, 1993-2009. 16.
  2. Wadehra, R. (2021). Equal rights for migrant care workers. 21.
  3. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Temporary Residents: Work Permit Holders –TFWP by Province/Territory and Program.
  4. Centre for Global Social Policy (2016). Labour Standards in Caregiving .
  5. Frances Henry (1968). The West Indian Domestic Scheme in Canada. Social and Economic Studies. 17(1), 83–91
  6. David Marincola (2011). Domestic Service Work in Canada: The Living and Working Conditions 1940s to Present. York University
  7. Wadehra, R. (2021). Equal rights for migrant care workers. 21.
  8. Ibid
  9. Government of Canada. Caregivers. Immigration and Citizenship.
  10. Government of Canada. Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Employment and Social Development Canada.
  11. Employment Standards Act, 2000 Ontario Regulation 285/01 Exemptions, Special Rules And Establishment Of Minimum Wage - https://www.ilo.org/dyn/travail/docs/2371
  12. Government of Ontario. Minumum wage. https://www.ontario.ca/document/your-guide-employment-standards-act-0/minimum-wage
  13. Migrant Rights. https://migrantrights.ca/take-action/landed-status-now/
  14. Ibid
  15. Wadehra, R. (2021). Equal rights for migrant care workers. 21.
  16. Ibid