Cancel CBSA “Project Guardian” raids on caregivers, say local groups to PM Trudeau

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Migrante BC, the West Coast Domestic Workers Association and MLA Mable Elmore today called on Prime Minister Trudeau to cancel a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) project that targets foreign caregivers in their employer’s homes.

The CBSA’s “Project Guardian”, refers to an investigative unit set up in the agency’s BC and Yukon region to tackle allegations of fraud and violations of the foreign caregiver program. An example is where a caregiver may be working for an employer that is not stated in their work permit.

“Foreign caregivers come to Canada on work permits tied to their specific employer. So if they are let go or have to leave for various reasons including abuse, they need a new work permit. Processing times for the new permits can take as long as half a year and while waiting, the caregivers are not allowed to work or may not be eligible to collect employment insurance,” says Erie Maestro, Migrante BC Coordinator.

According to Maestro, her group has yet to see solid data that supports allegations that caregivers are abusing the caregiver program. Instead, she says research and their case studies show many instances where employers and recruitment agencies are the ones exploiting these foreign workers.

“This program should be canceled and provincially, Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberal government should ensure employers are not violating Employment Standards legislation. Creating a registry of employers of foreign workers would be a good start,” said MLA Mable Elmore, the provincial spokesperson on Immigration and Temporary Foreign Workers.

“The investigations conducted are also very heavy handed and they penalize caregivers who are often victimized by employers, unscrupulous recruitment agencies and exploitative government policies,” said Elmore.

For their part, the West Coast Domestic Workers Association highlighted the general need for the Canadian government to respect the women that provide essential caregiving work by protecting their rights instead of unjustly targeting them.

“For International Women’s Day, it is time to recognize and value the critical nature of care work for families and for the Canadian economy,” said Natalie Drolet, West Coast Domestic Workers Association executive director.

Other calls made by the group included: ending Harper’s policy of “four years in and four years out” (eg. Where temporary foreign workers have to leave the country if they do not obtain permanent residency after four years and cannot return after another four years); implementing industry wide instead of employer specific work permits; and taking progressive action on the issue of undocumented workers in Canada.

“It’s shameful that in 2016, we have second class workers tied to specific employers like ‘slaves’ tied to their ‘master’. These workers contribute much to our society and instead of being penalized or treated as disposable labour, the government should create a pathway to citizenship for them”, concluded Maestro.