Speaking notes for Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship: An announcement on two new caregiver immigration pilot programs
February 23, 2019
Thank you so much, Rob. And thank you to The Neighbourhood Organization for having us here today for this really important announcement.
I want to begin by acknowledging the presence with me here and to really appreciate my colleagues. First, thank you very much Rob Oliphant, the Member of Parliament for Don Valley West, for hosting us today. Rob Oliphant is also the Chair of the Citizenship and Immigration Committee in the House of Commons, and that Committee has a lot of hard work to produce studies and reports that have informed the policy-making process within IRCC.
Next to him is Michael Levitt, Member of Parliament for York Centre, my colleague in Parliament and also the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, again a really important Committee, determining Canada's policies with respect to foreign affairs and our place in the world.
And next to me, to my right, is Salma Zahid, a Member of Parliament for Scarborough Centre, my colleague who also sits on the Citizenship and Immigration Committee, and who cares deeply about this particular issue of caregivers.
And, of course, I was really happy to meet all the officials and the organisers of this event from The Neighbourhood Organization, to see the work that they do and to see first-hand the students in the class who are at a very high level of English, and taking the time to learn more, so that they can integrate faster into the workplace.
I'd like to begin by acknowledging that we're gathered today on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of New Credit.
It’s a pleasure to be here with all of you.
Caregivers have cared for our elderly, for our children, and for many Canadians who need assistance. They help raise our children while their parents go to work or study, and they make their own contributions in many different ways to our community and our economy. Some people would be solely responsible for the care of their loved ones without caregivers. They help families with this care, so that they can themselves also go to work or study outside the home.
And I can tell you we are all standing here in front of you today because we believe that it is finally time that Canada take care of them, the caregivers, in return for their care and contributions that they've made to Canada.
Caregivers coming to this country have faced many challenges and barriers; challenges that we have heard from you time and again. And I have seen and heard these challenges first-hand, not just in Toronto, but all across the country.
I'll give you an example, the story of Jocelyne, who was separated from her family, a caregiver right here in Canada, who was separated from her family for 13 years – that's far too long. That's hardship that she and her family had to endure. She was finally reunited with her family, but only in 2017. I met her and her family and I thanked Jocelyne for all the contributions that she made to our country.
Unfortunately, the experience of Jocelyne is far too common in the caregiver community. In 2014 there was a backlog of 62,000 caregivers in the Live-in Caregiver Program. In 2017, we reduced that backlog to approximately 24,000 and I made the commitment that the government would eliminate this backlog by 80% by the end of 2018. I'm here to report to you that not only did we do it, we went further – we reduced that backlog by 94%.
Another statistic is that caregiver families were kept apart for between five to seven years, waiting to reunite with their loved ones. The government has reduced this wait time to sponsor your loved ones to 12 months.
And today I'm pleased to say that this is the new standard. Every time a caregiver sponsors their family members and their loved ones to Canada, it will only take 12 months or less.
We have also maintained a six-month wait time for applications to the Caring for Children and Caring for People with High Medical Needs Pilot Programs. Over the years, tens of thousands of caregivers have gained permanent residency through the Live-in Caregiver Program after working for families in Canada for at least two years or more.
In 2014, that program was closed and many caregivers continued to arrive in Canada, and they believed wrongly that they would continue to qualify for permanent residency after they acquired the necessary work experience. They were not told that the program ended. Many did not realize that they were not part of Live-in Caregiver Program. Others found out that was the case after they already started working in Canada. The result is that many caregivers have been working quietly in Canada, but have been left unable to qualify for permanent residency under the existing system.
Well, I can tell you, not just me but our colleagues Michael, Rob, Salma, and many others, that we heard you loud and clear across the country, and we heard you when you said that this situation had to change. So today we're taking action to help those people, as well who are caught in the limbo of the non-existing Live-In Caregiver Program.
As you know, the Caring for Children and Caring for People with High Medical Needs pilots will expire later this year. So last year, I rose in the House of Commons to reaffirm the government's clear commitment to caregivers, that we will always maintain a pathway for permanent residency for caregivers.
When these pilots expire, we will launch two new five-year programs for caregivers: one dedicated to home childcare providers and another to home support workers. These new programs will assess whether a caregiver meets permanent residency requirements before they get to work in Canada.
What does this mean? It means that the only criteria that an in-home caregiver will have left to meet when they get to Canada, is that they have a two-year work experience requirement. These pilots will also provide caregivers with the flexibility to change employers when they need to do that. No longer will a caregiver be tied to one employer. If a caregiver is working for a particular employer and they feel abused or exploited, they can choose to go to another employer.
We are also removing some of the barriers that have prevented caregivers from bringing their families with them to Canada when they accept a job in Canada. How will we do this? We will provide open work permits for caregivers' spouses and common-law partners, number one.
Number two – we will also provide study permits for their children when they come with them.
And number three – this means that caregivers will no longer have to make the difficult choice of either accepting a job in Canada or leaving their family members back home. They will be able to come with their family members – their children and their spouses, and be able to start a new life in Canada.
In addition to that – remember those who are left in limbo because of the 2014 end of the Live-in Caregiver Program – we will soon launch an entering pathway for those caregivers, so that they can also access permanent residency. This will open on March 4th until June 4th. This program will offer many caregivers in this very vulnerable situation an immediate pathway to permanent residency.
And I want to take this opportunity to thank all the caregivers, not only the ones here today, but all the caregivers in Canada who are watching, because they help take care of our loved ones. You have given so much to Canada and we want to thank you.
Caregivers deserve our gratitude, they deserve our hard work; they deserve our care in return for everything that they do for Canada, each and every single day. For caregivers such as Jocelyne and caregivers coming to Canada in the future, this will be a promise. They’ll have a better life bringing their families to Canada and their children with them. And they will always have a new path to becoming a permanent resident in Canada, the best country in the world.
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