Friday, December 16, 2011

Canada News: Immigration minister says foreign caregivers can work elsewhere when contract ends -

Canada News: Immigration minister says foreign caregivers can work elsewhere when contract ends -
Dale Brazao and Richard J. Brennan
Staff Reporters

Ten thousand “open work permits” have been issued to foreign caregivers across Canada in a move one activist said frees them from bondage and slavery.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s orders came in response to a year-long Star investigation that found foreign nannies were treated as servants and forced to stay with one employer. Often, their passports were held by families that hired them, paying wages far below the poverty line.

“Finally they are released from bondage, the bondage of poverty, slavery and neglect,” said Terry Olayta, coordinator of the Toronto Caregiver Resource Centre. She said the average nanny nets about $250 a week.

“If we truly want to eliminate poverty, if we really want to eliminate neglect, exploitation and slavery, that is the thing to do — expedite their open work permits.”

Until the federal immigration department’s move, caregivers had to wait as long as two years for an open permit. Many were kept in abusive and exploitive work situations and forced to live in their employer’s home long after their original contract ended.

With an open permit, granted after their work requirements under the federal Live-In Caregiver program are met, caregivers are now free to take another job and move out of their sponsor’s homes while they wait for a decision on their applications for permanent residency.

Olayta said her group submitted a report to Kenney last September asking for just that. Waiting times for open permits in recent years had gone from just a few weeks to as much as 24 months, a situation she said kept some caregivers indentured and at the mercy of abusive employers.

One of the cases of alleged exploitation highlighted by the Star involved former Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla. Nannies complained to the newspaper they were hired by Dhalla to work at the family home in Mississauga and routinely toiled five days a week, earning $250 a week for 12- to 16-hour days. Plus the Dhalla family did not obtain the necessary federal approval under the Live-In Caregiver Program for the women to live and work in their home.

“After serious allegations of abuse were brought forward by live-in caregivers against Ruby Dhalla, the Minister engaged in consultations with various live-in caregivers regarding how to further improve the program. This policy is a direct result of those consultations,” said Kenney’s press secretary, Candice Malcolm.

In an interview at the time, Dhalla said she was “shocked and appalled” at the allegations.

“Anyone who has ever worked in our home has been treated with a lot of love, with a lot of care and compassion and money has never, ever been withheld from anyone,” Dhalla told the Star in an interview.

The Star series also prompted the Ontario government to pass legislation to further protect nannies. The new law makes it illegal for anyone to charge placement fees either directly or indirectly, putting the onus on the employer to pick up any costs involved with the recruiting and hiring of nannies.

The investigation showed widespread abuse with some recruiters charging as much as $10,000 for bogus jobs. Caregivers also complained of having to work 12- to 16-hour days for employers without being paid any overtime, and of being afraid to complain for fear of jeopardizing their applications for landed status.

Under the terms of the Live-In Caregiver program, applicants are obliged to work for two years, or 3,900 hours, and then become eligible to apply for permanent residence. In both 2009 and 2010, about five per cent of all permanent residents to Canada were admitted through the program.

In a press release, Kenney says the granting of open permits will go a long way to address those issues.

“Too many live-in caregivers have completed their work obligations but must continue living in the home of their employer, waiting for their application for permanent residence to be reviewed,” Kenney said.

“This is understandably frustrating. That’s why we have started issuing open work permits to live-in caregivers as soon as they have completed their obligations and submitted an application for permanent residence.

“The change I have announced (Thursday) will help caregivers settle into their new life in Canada while they wait for their permanent resident applications to be processed,” Kenney said in a statement

Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North) said he applauds the issuing of open work permits to live-in caregivers, saying there is little doubt that some have been taken advantage of.

“Quite often there are employers I would classify as questionable and they can make very difficult for a live-in caregivers … so the government is moving in the right direction saying they can change employers,” he said.

However, Lamoureux said there are issues that need to be resolved that are equally important, one of them being the treatment of caregiver when they get sick while they are working in Canada. He said now if it is serious enough they are deported.

“I have had dozens of stories told to me with regard to this whole health issue and to me that issue is just as important as the exploitation issue because the health issue has just as much as an impact, if not more, than exploitation issue,” he said.

As of Sunday, all live-in caregivers who have met their obligations and who have submitted an application for permanent residence have had their files reviewed. Those who submitted an open work permit application with no missing information are being issued open work permits, according to the immigration department.

In 2010, Citizenship and Immigration Canada admitted a record 14,000 permanent residents through the Live-in Caregiver Class, the news release stated. The program allows Canadian families to hire workers from abroad to provide care for a child, en elderly person or an adult with disabilities.

Ottawa has taken a number of steps to protect live-in caregivers from abuse and exploitation with regulatory improvements in the program in 2010 and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in 2011, according to the immigration department.

In the wake of the Star stories, the Ontario government set up a hotline where nannies can call and report any abuse or exploitation, and the federal government instituted a system to black list bad employers. Anyone found to be abusing a temporary foreign worker would be banned from being able to employ one for at least two years.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Canadian government to impose face veil ban during oath swearing

Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Monday that the government is imposing a face veil ban for people swearing their oath of citizenship. This move will prohibit face coverings, such as burkas and niqabs.
On Friday, Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, stated in a press release that the government will investigate approximately 6,500 for allegedly obtaining permanent resident status or citizenship illegally. In the summer, Kenney began to revoke the citizenship of 1,800 citizens and now that has increased to 2,100.
Speaking in Montreal on Monday, Kenney declared that the government will immediately place a ban on face veils during their oath of citizenship swearing ceremony, according to CBC News. This ban will take effect immediately.
Citizenship and immigration officials will require those taking the oath to do so “openly” because, according to Kenney, it’s “public declaration that you are joining the Canadian family and it must be taken freely and openly.”
“To segregate one group of Canadians, to allow them to hide their faces, to hide their identity from us is contrary to Canada's commitment to openness and to social cohesion,” said Kenney during a press conference in Montreal, where he is visiting with various cultural groups, reports Global Montreal.
The immigration minister said he has received numerous complaints from Members of Parliament and citizenship representatives regarding face coverings because it’s hard to tell if they are actually reciting the citizenship oath – this is mandatory to become a Canadian citizen.
As of Dec. 12, 2012, Muslim women will be required to remove face veils before they swear their oath of citizenship. Department officials will inform them of the requirements and give them two warnings. Citizenship judges will be forced to enact the rules during these ceremonies.
If a person chooses not to remove their face garments, then they will remain a permanent resident and not be able to vote, run for public office or even hold some jobs. It is possible that they be deported from Canada if they commit a crime.
Kenney said women who were allowed to cover their faces was “frankly, bizarre.”
Canada is not the only country to take such measures. France stirred controversy worldwide after they imposed a public ban on face coverings in public places. Choosing to refuse could result in a ban.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Canadians more tolerant of immigration levels: study | CTV News

MONTREAL — A new study suggests Canadians have grown more tolerant of the country's immigration levels -- even as the number of newcomers has increased over the years.

A poll of 2,020 people, taken for the Institute For Research on Public Policy, found that 58 per cent of Canadians surveyed last year supported the country's level of immigration.

The findings also suggest that Canadians have had positive views of immigration levels for more than a decade.

The results tell a contrary story to one occasionally found in news headlines that suggest Canadians might be increasingly fed up with accommodating newcomers.

There were actually two prominent news stories Monday in Quebec related to disputes over minority accommodations.

Talk TV was exercised over a report on a Montreal-area municipality's decision to remove Christmas and Hanukkah decorations at city hall. A community group had requested to have Islamic symbols erected as well, and the Town of Mount Royal responded by taking down symbols from all religions, save for a Christmas tree.

There was also a report on the city of Gatineau's immigrant guide book, asking newcomers not to take part in honour killings or cook smelly foods.

But the research director for IRPP's diversity, immigration and integration program said while disputes make flashy headlines, they overshadow the many positive stories of integration that are never told.

"We think sometimes these debates are kind of tough in Canada and things are getting worse -- but we're in a lot better shape, in all kinds of ways, than a lot of other countries," Leslie Seidle said Monday in Montreal.

"Contrary to many other countries, particularly in western Europe, we have a strong majority who think that the level of immigration we have right now is about right."

The IRPP study cited a 2010 survey that found close to 60 per cent of people in the United Kingdom thought there were too many immigrants in their country. By comparison, less than 20 per cent of Canadians felt the same way.

In the poll taken by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Canadians were also found to be more tolerant of immigrants than people in Italy, Spain, the U.S., France, Netherlands and Germany.

But Canadians' views toward immigrants haven't always been as welcoming.

The study by IRPP, a non-partisan, Montreal-based public policy think-tank, suggests there was a shift in public opinion about a decade ago.

From the late 1970s until the early 1990s, the majority of Canadians held negative attitudes about the country's immigration levels.

Following a shift in the 1990s, Canadians' view of immigration has been more positive than negative since the latter part of that decade.

The country opened its doors to 280,000 immigrants last year and has accepted more than 200,000 newcomers annually since 2000, according to Citizenship and Immigration Department statistics cited in the study. In the mid 1980s, fewer than 100,000 immigrants per year came to Canada.

The report argued that Canadians who support immigration believe that multiculturalism is a source of national pride and creates economic benefits.

The research also found that attitudes about immigration varied by region, though each area had majority support for existing levels.

The Prairies (62.8 per cent), Atlantic Canada (62.5 per cent) and Quebec (61.8 per cent) scored higher than the Canadian average. The other regions, included British Columbia (57.4 per cent), Alberta (54.4 per cent) and Ontario (53.5 per cent).

Seidle was asked whether he was surprised the study found one of the most pro-immigration areas in Quebec, a province that has been at the centre of heated debate over minority accommodations.

He blamed Quebec media for putting too much emphasis on disputes, such as a request a few years ago by a Montreal Jewish community group that a local YMCA frost its windows.

The group no longer wanted its youth to be able to see people wearing revealing clothes as they exercised inside.

"These stories have been blown up," said Seidle, who, for example, added that little adjustments to accommodate diet, dress and days of religious observance are made in schools throughout Montreal every day.

"But maybe we end up paying too much attention to this kind of stuff because it's got conflict underneath it."

Read more:
Canadians more tolerant of immigration levels: study | CTV News