Posted by Saraline , Friday, March 18, 2011 2:00 AM
Last Saturday, the Philippine Women Centre of Quebec (PWC-Quebec) presented the Nanny Business, a documentary which focuses on the experiences that women have had with Canada's Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP).
The viewer is first introduced to Edelyn. In an attempt to provide for her family financially, Edelyn has left her three children behind in the Philippines so that she can obtain work caring for another woman's child in Canada. She hopes that she will be able to bring her children to Canada once she has completed the requirements of the LCP program; she must live with her employer for 24 months within three years. She has borrowed money from a loan shark so that she could pay an agent to find her employment in Canada and for her plane ticket. She has a contract with an employer who she has never met. When she arrives in Canada, nobody meets her at the airport.
Edelyn finds her agent and it turns out that her employer does not want her services after all. She is now in an unfamiliar place with nowhere to live, very little money, no job, and no way to complete the requirements for the LCP. Later on in the film she speaks with Melanie, the woman who was supposed to be hiring her, on the telephone. Melanie offhandedly tells her, "I thought that I was going to need you but now I don't."
Unfortunately, Edelyn's story is not unique. The viewer follows Susan McClelland as she does research for an article that she is writing about nanny abuse. She learns about the many problems that women encounter within the LCP at the hands of their employers and agents. The nannies are often forced to work long hours for little pay and asked to do tasks that are outside of their job descriptions. For example, one woman in the documentary had her employer ask her for a massage when she arrived home from work. The women in the LCP are not protected from abuse and they often find themselves in vulnerable situations when their employers threaten to have them deported if they do not do what is asked of them.
The viewing of the documentary was followed by a discussion of the issues within the LCP. The 24 month live-in requirement is a huge problem; those 24 months must be spent with the same employer. If a job situation does not pan out for someone, she has to start the 24 months all over again with a new employer if she wants to stay in the program. For many women, this means an even longer separation from their own children who they are hoping to bring to Canada once they have completed the program. While there are laws in Quebec protecting the live-in caregivers from being fired for no reason, an employer can get around this by saying that they can no longer afford to have a nanny. The live-in requirement also makes the caregivers more vulnerable to exploitation; if they are living with their employers, they cannot just go home at the end of a shift. They are essentially on call for 24 hours a day. If they end up working 18 hours in a day, they will probably still only be paid for eight hours.
The members of the PWC-Quebec also shared many opinions about the situation of the caregivers in the LCP. One person said that Canadian women, in a bid to obtain their own freedom and follow their careers, are oppressing other women so that they may do so. Mae, one of the founders of the PWC-Quebec, pointed out that nannies are being paid low wages for long hours because caring for children is traditionally a woman's job and it is still not valued as legitimate work.
Since the documentary was filmed, one change has been to the LCP; the 24 month live-in requirement is now within a four year period instead of a three year period. This small change does not even begin to address all of the abuse and exploitation that occurs because of this program. There is a lot more that needs to be done to protect the people who come to Canada through the LCP.