Swept Under the Rug

The promise of a better life as a care-giver in another country does't always ring true.
Story Allie Nichol
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The Live-In Caregiver Program is a federally legislated work visa program that has drawn controversy since its inception in 1992. For some, the LCP can be the means to a better life—but it can be heart wrenching too.

Trina*, a 24 year-old from Manila, is working as a live-in nanny on Vancouver’s west side. She trained in childcare in Manila, but could not find decent work there. Trina is childless and single, so the decision to come to Canada was not as difficult as it is for others. “Of course I miss my family and friends very much, but I work for a great family here—I consider myself lucky,” she says cheerfully. But there are other women who have problems with their employers.

“I was treated very badly,” discloses Joan*, a 27 year-old from Makati. Coming to Vancouver to care for a woman with Alzheimer’s, she did not expect the treatment she received from her employers. “I looked after the mother from morning until night, with few breaks in between. My wages were held back several times by the adult children of the lady I looked after. Sometimes my employers spoke to me like I was a child, like I was stupid or something. It hurt my feelings, but I didn’t think I could tell anyone.”

According to a 2008 study by Professor Geraldine Pratt of the University of British Columbia’s geography department, in addition to working overtime and not being paid, there have been instances of loss of privacy and sexual harassment among women in the program. Because the women are required to live in their employer’s home, it makes it more difficult for them to come forward after being mistreated. They avoid seeking help out of fear of losing their jobs.

Still, they choose to come here. When faced with a constant economic roller coaster in their home countries, many women come to Canada hoping for the best. Sometimes they find a better quality of life, but unfortunately not everyone is so lucky.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.