In the last few weeks our regular nanny has been unavailable so we’ve been scrounging around for different care givers. But while it’s a struggle for us to find childcare at the last minute, I’m reminded of how much of a struggle life can be for thousands of foreign care givers in this country.
Canada has a live-in caregiver program which facilitates Canadian families hiring nannies to live in their homes and take care of their children. Although I don’t know much about the technicalities of the program or the laws that require these nannies to wait years before being able to apply to become permanent residents and have work permits, I have heard many stories about women in this program being poorly treated. Do their employers think they do not owe the same human courtesy their caregivers since they are foreign and dependent?
More than 90% of Canada's domestic workers come from the Philippines – Canada’s fourth largest immigrant group. There are probably hundreds of Filipina nannies in Ottawa, many who have come to Canada via Hong Kong or the Middle East. (One of Miya’s first nannies was Filipina).
The stories I hear aren't necessarily human rights violations, but they demonstrate a lack of consideration to these women – women who are being entrusted with the care of people’s children. One woman I know has a room bordering right on the children’s bedroom, meaning that if the child cries in the night, she is the one to wake up.
If that doesn’t seem bad to you, I was told yesterday about a nanny whose bed is in the laundry room – a room without a locking door and one in which the family feels free to enter and leave at their leisure.
There are often little ways in which a woman’s contract is violated – extra hours demanded, an extra child, lack of privacy. One woman was telling me that she has time off during the day, but never for more than 3 hours – so it’s very difficult for her to do anything outside of her work.
I know that I haven’t even scratched the surface here. But I’m sure there are many more stories and voices which deserve be heard.