Monday, June 16, 2008

A tale of two women

Two women, forced by the woeful economic conditions in the Philippines to work in Canada as lowly caregivers, are now on the verge of being expelled from the country they have both served with all their heart: doing household chores and taking care of little kids so their employers could keep their lucrative jobs and comfortable lifestyles.

Tale #1

Juana Tejada found out she has Stage 4 metastatic colon cancer, right after she became eligible for permanent resident status. All she needed was to complete two years of her work contract and she could be free to choose whatever job she wanted

Once she has become a permanent resident, Juana could look forward to sponsoring her family to join her in the land of milk and honey, thus liberating them from the claws of poverty and hopelessness. Canada Immigration denied her application for permanent residence. It ruled that Juana's health condition would be an excessive burden on the country's health and social services. Juana's previous health coverage was cancelled. Now she relies on the kindness of her doctors and friends to continue fighting a disease that in a matter of months her doctors say will eventually consume her.

Tale #2

Mylah Caban, a bubbly and self-assured young woman from Baguio City, in northern Philippines, once dreamt of becoming an architect. So full of optimism after completing two years of contract work as a caregiver here in Toronto, Mylah had been nursing her dream of becoming a permanent resident, and eventually a Canadian citizen, in a few years. She has never abandoned her plans to resume her studies to realize her dream of designing houses and buildings someday

Instead of simply requesting for a renewal of her expiring work permit, Mylah put in an application for open work permit. She did not know that she still had to wait for advice from Canada Immigration about her eligibility for permanent resident status under the live-in caregiver class. To make matters worse, she committed another blunder by submitting an application for permanent residence at the same time. The immigration officer who reviewed both applications did not even bother to correct the mistakes nor advise her, as he was instructed by the policy manual, of the factors why her applications were refused so she could rectify those mistakes. It seemed as if the immigration officer was trained merely to robotically apply the rules and disregard the applicant's circumstances even if it was procedurally unfair.

Mistakes were compounded one after the other. Another immigration officer presided over Mylah's hearing to determine whether she should be deported for violating the law -- for not having a work permit as a caregiver -- and issued an exclusion order against Mylah, glossing over the allegations against her.

Denying both women their application for permanent residence nullifies the years of service they have completed pursuant to the government's live-in caregiver program. After they had sweated and toiled doing the back-breaking tasks of taking care of their employer's little children and their households, they have now become as expendable as used goods. Well, Canada does not have to worry or be alarmed because more replacement is coming from the Philippines, so both Juana and Mylah can be discarded.

The deportation of these two women engages serious personal, financial and emotional consequences. More deplorable and cynical is the government's treatment of Juana Tejada. Its current behaviour is out of character, Canada being known worldwide as a humane and compassionate society,

Juana came to Canada with a clean bill of health. After expending all her energies caring for Canadian children and families, she was stricken ill with cancer. This development did not forebode well for a government that seems to have been seized by sudden amnesia; it has forgotten Juana's labour of love for the families and children she cared for and has turned its back and denied Juana the protection and healthcare she requires when she needs it most. This is not the compassionate Canada that we all know about.

Every once in a while, and this is the greatest tragedy of all, someone not half as qualified nor has put in hard years of work like Juana and Mylah have, gets in the cracks of Canada's immigration system. Someone fleeing prosecution from crimes committed in another country, or perhaps someone making a false refugee claim.

As a country, our image to the rest of the world is slipping fast. We have become a convenient haven for the unworthy dregs of the earth while we dispose of our hardworking Juanas and Mylahs as if they were used and damaged goods.

For related article, see "Imagine a world without Filipinos"
by Abdullah Al-Maghlooth:

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