By TOM GODFREY
A group representing Caribbean and other caregivers say they are disappointed by impending changes to immigration laws that will make it harder for the women to become permanent residents of Canada.
Officials of the Caregivers Action Centre welcome an amendment that will allow the women to live on their own, rather than with an employer.
But, they said caregivers will now face tougher screening measures before being allowed to come to Canada to work under the changes.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said “significant reforms” are being made to the Caregiver Program that will recognize contributions the women have make to Canadian families and the economy.
Alexander announced the reforms last week as he tabled his 2015 Immigration Levels Plan to Parliament, which will see an increase of 19,000 immigrants being allowed to come to Canada next year.
He said the Caregiver Program will be split into two streams starting next month. Qualified caregivers can apply for permanent resident status if they work as a child care provider, or in the health care sector as nurses, nursing aides or care providers.
Alexander said those working in the two streams can be processed as permanent residents in six months once they meet language, education and other requirements.
“We have listened to the concerns of caregivers across Canada and have taken action to improve the Caregiver Program,” he said. “Our changes protect caregivers from abuse and reduces family separation.”
Alexander said the changes will help reduce a backlog of 60,000 cases, with some caregivers waiting for as long 10 years for permanent residency or to be reunited with their families.
The lengthy waiting time is made worse by the closures of some Canadian visa offices abroad, which means local immigration cases have to be processed in other countries.
Alexander said there will be a cap on applications of 2,750 each year in both categories, for a total of 5,500 caregivers and their families, who will be accepted in Canada.
Immigration officials said Canada will set an all-time record this year with 17,300 caregivers being admitted as permanent residents.
“With our improvements caregivers will be provided with more pathways towards permanent residence,” Alexander said in a statement. They “will have the tools they need to achieve success in the Canadian labour market”.
He said the annual levels plan will almost double the number of caregivers and their families who will be granted permanent residency in 2015 to 30,000.
Caregiver Action spokesperson, Pura Velasco, said the women are saddened by the impending changes that will limit the amount of caregivers being allowed to work in Canada.
“We are truly disappointed by what we have heard so far,” Velasco told Share. “Only the brightest and most educated caregivers will be eligible to come to Canada.”
She said a cap on 5,500 applicants annually will hurt many families waiting abroad, since most of the caregivers later sponsor their families to Canada.
“There is a lot of concern about the cases in the backlog,” said Velasco. “Caregivers want to know if their cases in the backlog will be processed under the old rules or the new rules.”
Toronto resident, Gabriel Gomori, is so outraged by the length of time it takes for cases to be processed that he is staging a protest on November 13 at 2 p.m. outside Alexander’s office, at 100 Westney Rd. S., in Ajax.
Gomori said he has been trying unsuccessfully for years to sponsor his wife from the Philippines.
“We are hoping to bring a bit of attention to what is happening to our families,” he said. “We are hoping that the Minister will notice and realize that something is wrong in his department.”
A release by the immigration department said the processing of caregiver cases in the backlog is a priority.
“Reducing the backlog and processing times will mean that eligible caregivers will be reunited sooner with their families,” the release said.
The 2015 Immigration Levels Plan will welcome between 260,000 and 285,000 new permanent residents in 2015, an increase of about 19,000 over last year.
The economic category will account for 65 per cent of all new immigrants next year, and the remaining 35 per cent will consist of family class immigrants, refugees and others admitted under humanitarian programs.