TERMINATE THE NANNY PROGRAMME
Renewed revelations that Sikh men have been applying in large numbers to come to Canada as nannies should spur Immigration Minister Diane Finley into terminating the Live-In Caregiver (Nanny) immigrant category completely. This action should have been taken years ago.
The live-in caregiver or nanny category is a part of the “Economic Class” of Canada's Immigration programme. Since it began in 1992, it has been used mostly by Filipino and Caribbean women as a method of entering Canada. For the years 1997 to 2003, about 3000 nannies entered Canada annually, but in the past three years the number has grown steadily. In 2006, almost 7000 arrived. In return for acting as nannies for two full years, workers are given Permanent Resident status, are eligible to apply for citizenship and can later sponsor a spouse, children and other relatives.
Serious objections have been raised to the nanny programme before. One is that it is open to fraudulent employment agreements. So-called “employers” in Canada engage in virtual (and profitable) people- smuggling by offering caregiver jobs to foreign relatives. However, the Canadians who allegedly need care really do not require assistance. Another serious objection is that administrators do not ask pertinent questions and perform necessary checks on applicants—rendering the programme susceptible to widespread fraud.
The applications from Sikh men for these positions over the past year highlight a major flaw in the programme: it provides eventual Canadian Citizenship to workers who provide a very short-term service. According to documents obtained by Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland under the Access to Information Act, federal bureaucrats point out that Sikh men are notoriously averse to “women's work”, but several thousand of them have applied for nanny training in the Punjab and are seeking nanny positions in Canada–primarily as helpers to Sikh relatives in Canada. But Kurland and others suspect that these men have no real interest in this work and are using the training merely as a way to enter and stay permanently in Canada.
According to the 2006-2007 annual report of the Canadian visa office in the Punjab, obtained from Kurland's “Lexbase”, “Many of the (nanny) applicants are male – in a society where childcare and eldercare is seen as the sphere of women.” “This office has identified over 160 'nanny schools' in the Punjab. While some of these schools are bona fide schools, there are a considerable number lacking facilities, equipment and students – but having large graduating classes!” the report told senior officials at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
In the words of senior officials: “Fraud is omnipresent in Chandigarh (the Punjab city where the applications are being received) and is found in every sort of document, Indian and Canadian.”
This report from Immigration Minister Finley's officials should be the “straw” needed to get her to terminate the nanny programme. Here are some of the other legitimate objections to the Live-In Caregiver (Nanny) programme:
(1) As a cheap labour programme, the entire nanny programme benefits a few people who probably do not deserve the benefit. According to an internal review obtained under the Access to Information Act, and published by Richard Kurland's “Lexbase”, around 95% of live-in caregiver employers were couples. Around 92% of the couples were working. Around 57% of these employers earned $100,000 or more per year and 67% were professional or business couples. About 94% had university degrees. Most had demanding work schedules and busy social lives. Most employers hired nannies to look after children, not to care for the elderly.
(2) The programme encourages low wage labour. “HRDC (Human Resources and Development Canada) senior staff maintain that there are sufficient Canadian caregivers willing and able to meet the demand for live-out home care. As a result, they would not validate employers' requests for a foreign live-out caregiver.” However, “HRDC contends that Canadians are unwilling to supply these services because of the live-in requirement. Because of this shortage, HRDC staff validate employers' applications for foreign workers…. In contrast, …(Citizenship and Immigration Canada) findings suggest that a number of characteristics of the job (not the live-in requirement alone) lead to the shortage of Canadian workers. Low wages is the most cited reason….”
In other words, live-in caregivers' low wages discourage lower income Canadian workers from applying because they cannot live on the wages. As a long-term type of employment, it should be occupied by Canadians. If it is going to exist as an emergency temporary worker plan, it should be properly-paid, and monitored. Foreign workers should have to leave the country after their term of work is finished. Proper pay should be their reward. There is no reason why these people should be given Permanent Resident status. Proper pay will soon attract lower-wage Canadians into live-in caregiver work.
(3) The nanny programme is an example of the phenomenon known as “the high cost of cheap labour”. Lower-wage Canadians pay for the nanny programme by being displaced from potential employment. The immediate cost of the nanny programme to the rest of Canadians is that they subsidize social assistance to these displaced Canadians and their families. The later cost to all Canadians is that they subsidize social assistance costs to the nannies' sponsored relatives who in all likelihood will present significant social welfare costs to Canada.
(4) Continuing the nanny programme will perpetuate a bad deal for Canada. It has meant giving an expensive reward (Canadian citizenship) for very temporary work. It further cheapens Canadian citizenship. It is almost certain that Sikh male nannies, even more than female nannies of the past 15 years, will not stay in nanny positions. This means that if the nanny programme continues, there will continue to be a constant open-door for applicants who want to use this door merely to get into Canada. Their goal is, subsequently, to sponsor as many relatives as possible. The major incentive for applicants to the programme is the virtual certainty that nannies have of acquiring Permanent Resident and Citizenship status. A superficial look at the nanny situation might tempt some Canadians to think that granting Permanent Resident status is a good trade for 2 or 3 years of slave labour. But when the damage done to Canada's unemployed, the social assistance cost of nannies' sponsored relatives is added up, the widespread fraud is examined, and the big question: “Whose interests should Canada's immigration policy serve?” is asked, the trade is seen to be a poor exchange.
In the grand scheme of things such as absurdly-high immigration levels and other widespread fraud, the Live-In Caregiver programme may not seem to be a big issue. But fraud and lack of vigilance on any scale are definitely things to be concerned about. And terminating this programme will send an initial signal to Canadians that MP's are dedicated to acting in the interests of Canadians, not in betraying them.