During the past two weeks, there have been several major shifts and changes in Canadian immigration policy. The Migrant Mothers Project team is still making sense of these changes, but wanted to illustrate some of the policies here at this time.
Changes to the Live-In-Caregiver Program
The long anticipated changes to the Live-in-Caregiver program were announced by Minister Chris Alexander on October 31, 2014. The proposed changes are complex and have been met with mixed responses. Many support the removal of the “live-in” requirement, while some are skeptical to see that fewer Live-in-caregivers will have access to permanent residence. Salimah Valiani has posted a “Briefing note: An analysis of the recently reformed Live-in-Caregiver Program”. The regulations are due to come into effect on November 30, 2014.
A quick overview of the proposed changes include:
- Live-in requirement is now optional. Live-in-caregivers will no longer be required to live with their employers while they are in the program.
- The federal government will increase the number of permanent residents (up to 30,000) next year, who apply through the Live-in-Caregiver program. This is intended to clear up the ‘back-log’ of applications that have been pending. There is not commitment to maintain these levels moving forward.
- CIC has introduced two new streams for caregivers: 1) child care workers and 2) health care aids. There will be a cap of 5,500 for both steams per year beginning in 2015. This is a sizable drop from the current levels of 25,000-30,000 new live-in-caregivers in recent years.
- The new caregiver streams will be required to have higher levels of education and to have high test scores in English or French (this change mirrors changes to the Federal Skilled Worker Program and the Canadian Experience Class immigration program)
Interim Federal Health Care (Temporarily Reinstated)
Earlier this year, in July, the Federal Court ruled that cuts to Interim Federal Health (IFH) program for refugee claimants was unconstitutional not to mention “cruel”. This past week, the Federal Court denied the Federal Government’s appeal, thus requiring the government to reinstate part of the IFH. The federal government is apparently still fighting this ruling, but while they are exhausting all legal avenues they’ve rolled out a temporary plan.
Some of the reinstated benefits include:
- Drug coverage for resettled refugees, refugee claimants
- Pre-natal care
- Basic drug coverage
“Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices”
Yes, that is the actual name of a bill tabled in the Senate, introduced by Chris Alexander. The bill seeks to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Criminal Code, and the Marriage Act. These amendments would criminalize any one who officiates or takes part in a forced marriage; it creates a national standard for a minimum age to marry at 16, and increases the power of immigration officers to deny an immigration application or deport people who practice or “intend to practice” polygamy.
There are many loopholes in this law and the messaging which attaches forms of violence against women to “cultural” groups that can be handled through intimidating and deporting immigrants. This law does little to provide meaningful support or protection to victims of violence including victims of forced marriage or the so-called “honor’ killings. As the Canadian Council of Muslim Women have stated, the language of ‘honor’ is falsely applied to violence against women in immigrant communities, when in all cases of femicide, the murdered is motivated by a loss of his honor.
For more on this topic, the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario has produced a comprehensive report on the problem of Forced Marriages in Canada. Although the Chris Alexander quoted statistics from SALCO’s report, they seem to have missed the heart of what victims are asking for, which is no criminalization’, since this would likely discourage victims from seeking any kind of help as this could put their loved ones in jeopardy under the proposed laws.
With so much change take place in Canadian policies, this is a time for discussion and community engagement; policy makers must engage the public and be held accountable to all forms of violence against women that are taking place in Canada, including those produced by Canadian social policies.