Earlier this year, members of PWC-BC were invited to speak about Canada’s Caregiver Program as guest speakers for a Sociology course on “Parent-Child Relationships”at the University of British Columbia. For over 25 years, PWC-BC has been calling for universal childcare and for the scrapping of the racist and anti-woman Caregiver Program (CP). Such calls and the concerns of the Filipino women who enter Canada through this program have been a part PWC’s organizing work since its inception, and we continue to spread the word to this day.
The class talk was introduced by a short animation on Canada’s Caregiver Program, produced by local Pinay artist, Kim Villagante. After a quick screening, the visuals were concretized by Cora Cadiz, chairperson of PWC-BC, through her experiences as a domestic worker under the program. Such stories are the ones that aren’t readily found in the typical textbook–the numerous stories that Filipino women in Canada experience everyday.
It was evident, based on the Q&A session that followed, that a program that only serves the needs of middle to upper-class families should not exist and should be scrapped, but this also spurred further questions in people’s minds. These are the questions that we need to start asking if we want to put women’s liberation and universal childcare back on the agenda.
We were asked what state stakeholders, such as the Philippine and Canadian government, are doing about the issue. Has there been a blacklist of bad employers? Do those in the Philippines know about the reality behind the program? Are there labour standards that are being enforced? When linked to the nature of work that is being performed in the private home, and the interest of the state to uphold a program that is convenient in the context of the privatization of healthcare and childcare, it can be understood that reforms do not go far enough and that the state is in line with employers’ interests in upholding the program.
Others were curious about the impact of the CP on parent and child relationships, and the day-to-day experiences of working as a nanny in an employer’s home. The realities of “nanny sharing,” unpaid overtime, no vacation pay, family separation, overwork, facing the the threat of deportation reflect the actual experience of caregivers in the home. Such experiences run in direct contrast to the notion of the caregiver as a “part of the family,” and reflect the power imbalances inherent within the employer-employee relationship. Not to mention that the CP is an employer-driven program at its core, and functions as a labour program, not as an immigration program.
While it would be great to come out with a survival guide for all migrants and immigrants entering Canada, to shed light on the actual realities we might face upon arrival, what we need goes beyond a lack of information. In fact, the Canadian government has a responsibility to provide settlement services for all newcomers. Beyond services and reforms, we must be critical of the relationship between countries of the Global North who directly benefit from the exporting of labour from the Global South. How such circular migration policies directly maintain the capitalist expansion of both countries, at the expense of the “sacrifices” of the transnational working-class. How the immigration system perpetuates structures of settler-colonialism and modern-day slavery.
To this, we say in 2016, and until we smash these systems: end it, don’t mend it.