The federal elections are over, yet the debris from the exchange of opinions between members of our community regarding immigration issues and Canada’s Live-in Caregiver Program are still scattered around us and on the Internet and need to be cleaned up. Just like party volunteers picking up their candidates’ signs from the yards of their supporters the day after the election, maybe we should also continue the political discourse by tidying up our muddled thoughts of the dangerous illusions peddled by some of our opinion-makers from the right.
Not that this would alter the election results, but we need to preserve, or even rescue, the objective truth from the rubbish heap of opinions caused by the recent exchange of ideas. Somehow, the truth becomes the casualty if we allow the celebratory euphoria of the party in power to drown it.
This essay focuses particularly on the opinions made by Mr. Julius Tiangson, an ardent Conservative Party supporter who is also the Executive Director of Gateway Centre for New Canadians (GCNC) in Mississauga, a government-funded settlement services agency. On Sundays, the aforementioned centre doubles up as a house of worship where Mr. Tiangson ministers to his religious congregation as a man of the cloth.
In one of his letters to the community by way of chat groups in the Internet, Mr. Tiangson wrote that a legislation introduced by the Conservative government in 2010, called The Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act, “would definitely curtail the ability of lawyers and consultants to charged (sic) exorbitant amount of money to vulnerable people.” Here he was referring to lawyers and consultants who charge excessive fees for their services, whom he had by and large accused of taking advantage of immigrants and refugees who have no chance at all in succeeding in their applications.
His patron, the Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Mr. Jason Kenny, was however more subtle and discreet during a press interview when he said: “While most immigration consultants working in Canada are legitimate and ethical, it is clear that immigration fraud remains a widespread threat to the integrity of Canada’s immigration system.”
The Act never intended to regulate fees being charged by lawyers and immigration consultants for their services. If this was the Act’s purpose, then it should have provided a tariff by which lawyers and consultants would observe when billing their clients. So, Mr. Tiangson is spreading misinformation that is both false and inaccurate.
Mr. Tiangson appears to be shooting from the hip by targeting lawyers and consultants for their unreasonable fees, when he could also be in the position of being overcompensated by the government for running a settlement services agency. How much do his government contracts allow him to allot for his individual salary? And why would that compensation cover for time he spent campaigning during the election for a Conservative Party candidate?
While tracing the history of the live-in caregiver program to the days of indentured slavery of yore, Mr. Tiangson, however, only browses the real causes of labour migration and even blames Filipinos for being complicit with their racialization here in Canada. He was of course referring to the fact that 90 per cent of participants in the live-in caregiver program are Filipino women, yet at the same time affirming that “it was the only way out” for thousands of Filipino women.
Mr. Tiangson has failed to comprehend from his limited understanding of the history of domestic work and its roots in slavery that this workforce is largely immigrant and composed of women of colour. Their exclusion from legal protections means that domestic work is less valuable than work outside of the home. This devaluation and dehumanization of domestic work pushed the demand in Canada for live-in caregivers because women were no longer willing to perform household work and stay home with their employers.
Where else will Canada get its nannies but from poor countries such as the Philippines with its a big surplus of cheap and unemployed labour? To blame Filipino women for being complicit with their stereotypical identification as nannies in the lowest rung of the labour force is not only unpatriotic but also betrays one’s lack of appreciation of the economic forces that motivate overseas migration of labour. To say that it’s their only “way out” is condescending to these women, instead of pinpointing that the real culprit is poverty that drives people to migrate. This also diminishes the culpability of the Philippine government for its failure to improve the economic conditions that will provide for decent jobs and better living conditions for its people.
There are significant push factors for migration such as poverty-level incomes, low wages in the rural areas, and lack of employment opportunities in poor countries, coupled with higher wages and greater job opportunities in urban areas and rich nations. Despite its beneficial trade benefits, globalization has created an ever-widening wealth gap between countries, and rural and urban areas within countries.
On its part, the Canadian government is likewise responsible for providing opportunities to exploit Filipino nannies. It has capitalized on the economic inequalities of globalization by installing a caregiver program that is inherently flawed and ripe for exploitation and abuse. The Conservative government’s regulatory changes, which Mr. Tiangson likes to call them instead of the more common term “legislative changes” (as if the results would be different), are yet another tactic to justify the perpetuation and expansion of a modern-day slavery program.
Mr. Tiangson appears to turn a blind eye to what the Conservative government has really achieved, that is, to pit competing interests in the Filipino community by encouraging one group to go up against another, thus stemming the growing movement of caregivers to liberate themselves from exploitation and abuse.
Being pragmatic for Mr. Tiangson means working with “politicians and who would listen and act.” Now that his coalition was able to purge Ruby Dhalla from the federal Parliament, with the group’s contribution hardly mentioned by the mainstream media, it remains to be seen whether the new Member of Parliament from Brampton-Springdale and Canada Immigration Minister Jason Kenney can deliver their avowed promises to improve the plight of Filipino caregivers.
Short of abolishing the exploitative mandatory live-in requirement and granting immediate permanent residence upon arrival, it is almost conceivable that the current regulatory changes to the Live-in Caregiver Program, in the words of Mr. Tiangson, would end up as “a dismal failure.”