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No genuine national childcare until the Live-in Caregiver Program is scrapped

Magkaisa Centre organizations criticize Liberal proposal

by Magkaisa Centre

Toronto, ON – February 10, 2010 – Despite a recent proposal by the Liberal Party to create a national childcare program, progressive Filipino Canadian organizations under the Magkaisa Centre express that the ongoing exploitation and violence perpetuated by the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) renders the Liberal’s proposal an empty promise that falls short of genuinely fulfilling the childcare needs of all Canadians.

The Philippine Women Centre of Ontario, SIKLAB–ON (Advance and Uphold the Struggle of Filipino Workers) and the Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canda/Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance–ON are wary of celebrating the announcement made by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, and are instead calling for a critical examination of the proposal. Any initiative to create a national childcare program is not complete until the LCP, which the groups describe as Canada’s de facto national childcare program, is scrapped.

“What was not mentioned in Ignatieff’s recent announcement is the persistent use of the LCP to meet Canada’s ever-pressing childcare and healthcare needs,” states Alleben Purugganan, member of the Philippine Women Centre of Ontario. In order to lure Filipino women, who compose 97% of workers in the LCP, to migrate as domestic workers to fulfill Canada’s childcare and healthcare needs, Citizenship and Immigration Canada offers them the promise of citizenship upon completion of the program. However, ongoing community research and organizing work has revealed that three years of working in exploitative conditions under precarious status proves to be a heavy price to pay for attaining permanent residency. Working under the LCP for most of these women results in their deskilling, poverty and psychological trauma. “Our women are essentially being legislated into poverty through the LCP,” says Bryan Taguba, member of SIKLAB–ON For over two decades, Filipino women, most of them professionals in the Philippines, have been working in private homes as caregivers and nannies, while each political party has failed to create a national childcare program that genuinely addresses the childcare needs of Canada. Childcare in Toronto has been chronically underfunded by the Federal government, with the City currently facing $63.5 million in childcare losses.

For over twenty years, the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada, SIKLAB–Canada and UKPC/FCYA–Canada has been calling for the scrapping of the Live-in Caregiver Program, demanding an end to this form of violence inflicted on Filipino women and on the rest of the community. Such a comprehensive campaign prompts the elimination of the demand for cheap foreign labour to fulfill the childcare needs of mostly middle and upper-class families. If the Liberals are able to implement a national childcare program while allowing the violence of the LCP to persist, they are, in effect, creating the conditions for a two-tiered childcare system wherein a few families are sanctioned to continue the exploitation of Filipino women by hiring them as nannies. The three organizations stress that only through the scrapping of the LCP will a national childcare system be truly accessible to all Canadians, regardless of income or status. “While Filipino-Canadian women continue to work in and pass on a life of poverty to their children, we must question the implementation of a so-called ‘national’ childcare program,” states Purugganan. “A genuine national childcare must not only be accessible to all Canadians, it must also be able to benefit all Canadians, regardless of race, class or gender,” she continues.

Another fact overlooked in Ignatieff’s recent announcement, as the groups identified, is how the LCP also contributes to the increasing privatization of healthcare in Canada. Aside from performing childcare duties, workers under the LCP also fulfill healthcare duties for the elderly, the sick and disabled. Many of these workers are also healthcare professionals in the Philippines. As a shortage of nurses and the chronic underfunding of the healthcare system looms in the face of a current economic crisis, the LCP provides a cheap alternative for addressing Canada’s healthcare needs. The organizations foresee that the “implementation of a national childcare program, alongside the continued existence of the LCP, will continue to funnel Filipino women to work as private nurses and caregivers for the elderly, the sick and the disabled.” Moreover, community advocates have already pointed out that the privatization of care in Canada, both in childcare and healthcare continually falls short of ensuring efficient and equitable treatment for all taxpayers. “As the private sector reaps the benefits of the privatization of care, it is the public who largely bears the losses of the private sector’s investments and risks. If the Liberal party will run on a platform of social justice in the next Federal elections, it must provide an explanation for the ongoing privatization of healthcare in this country,” Puruggan adds. She emphasizes that for the hardest hit working-class population, “this problem must not be tolerated and cannot continue.”

The healthcare system in Canada, in its current state, is riding on the backs of the Filipino community, with Filipino domestic workers, PSWs, LCPs and nurses bearing the brunt of the burden. Despite their contributions, these workers have been effaced from current history by a lack of proper acknowledgement and compensation. While Filipinos continue to be funneled into poverty, de-skilled and stamped with temporary status, no political party will get the attention of our community unless they address our fundamental issues and concerns. “We will not be treated as voting banks by the Liberal party while the needs of our community’s settlement and integration have yet to be met,” states Mark Serrano, member of the Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance–Ontario (UKPC/FCYA–ON). The continued existence of a government program that dehumanizes the Filipino community must be challenged and opposed by all Canadians. Scrapping the LCP is essential to the creation of a genuine national childcare in Canada, and to the future of the Filipino-Canadian community.

Magkaisa Centre organizations:

Philippine Women Centre of Ontario
SIKLAB Ontario (Sulong Itaguyod ang mga Karapatan ng mga Manggagawang Pilipino sa Labas ng Bansa/Advance and Uphold the Struggle of Filipino Workers)
Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada/Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance–Ontario

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