Posted in Life

Oh boy, open permit season causes all kinds of headaches, eh?

Welcome to the wonderful world of hiring a live-in caregiver through the Canadian Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP). You’ve made your mind up that you need a nanny and you have done your homework and realized that a live-in nanny through this program is the cheapest way to go. You have moved past the idea that a complete stranger will be coming to live with you and raising, or helping in the raising of, your child(ren). You have met with, interviewed and assessed strangers, or sponsored from overseas – relying on the judgement of an agency (more strangers) and at the end of the day, this turns out to be the easiest part of the process. Who knew?

There is paperwork… Lots of paperwork and a really good agency will prepare that for you, or help you prepare it while at the same time educating you on the LCP and the same time preparing you for the interview with Service Canada, setting up the terms of the contract with the nanny, helping get your CRA payroll number in place and making sure all other paperwork is in good order.

The LCP, you see, has changed a lot since 2004 when we sponsored our first nanny and that is solely because people abuse the program and in turn they abuse the people that they have hired to look after their houses and their children. By forcing these nannies to work super long hours (the story goes that because in Hong Kong they are not treated well, in Canada they would not complain about a 12 hour day), or they treat them like prisoners not allowing them to come and go freely from the family home outside of working hours. Expecting them to be on call 24/7, or expecting them to look after your 3 children, and keep the house spotless and cook for the family. If you cannot do it, what makes you think they can? The abuses always make the news.

As a result, the Federal Conservative government has been tightening the screws on the LCP for the past five years, making the rules tighter on the employment side, requiring potential employers to provide contracts to the employees outlining overtime (after 44 hours worked per week) and the giving of 2 weeks notice (or payment in lieu) prior to termination. A lot of attention was paid to having these employees respected and treated accordingly.

Then came the attack on nanny agencies in effort to force out the illegitimate ones but also unnecessarily tightening the screws on the legitimate ones, requiring them to have lawyers and immigration consultants in their business’ as well. Driving up the costs to the agencies ultimately means it is more expensive to hire an agency and really are these people not seeking full-time nannies because they need to work in order to make ends meet?!?

Then came the regulation requiring the potential employer to pay for the airfare of the nanny to bring her to Canada. That has been a huge issue since in many cases, there is not a good fit between employer and employee and if the employee is released, the employer already forked out for their flight to Canada. Another burden to the employer, and potentially critical blow to the program. Or even worse when the nanny comes to Canada on the potential employer’s dime then they quit.

But the latest decision by the Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenney just before Christmas and if you employ(ed) a live-in caregiver who had completed their mandatory 2 years in the program, you know exactly what happened there and you have most certainly had to deal with it already. Not only did it come out of no-where but it’s impact was far and wide on may people.

Back in 2004 when we first hired our live-in caregiver we kept her employed until she received her open permit and knowing this we worked with her to ensure she had a post-nanny career option, and we had time to work with our amazing nanny agency to help us sponsor a nanny from overseas to ensure there was no gap in care for our children. The time between the applying for the open permit and the receiving of it was invaluable as it gave us time to get moving on our post-nanny plan.

By 2007, however, the regulations began to tighten for the LCP and it was taking longer to get the open permit, now up to 8 months. Fast forward to 2010, and it was taking well over a year with no end in sight. There was a backlog of 10,000 cases and speculation that none of the nannies in the system were going to be granted their open permits.

This uncertainty made it very difficult for employers to plan for life after their nannies and for the nannies it delayed their planning for their life after employer. None of the nannies could take courses at recognized institutions since they would be deemed to be a foreign student and those students pay a lot of money to take classes which is not feasible on a $23,000/year salary. They needed to know when they could take courses so they could pre-register and employers needed an idea of when they might be leaving for potentially greener pastures.

Then without warning the Federal government granted open permits to everybody in their systems just before Christmas, whether they were waiting over a year, or just a week and within no time there was a lot of chaos.

Nannies, working long hours for low pay through this program, living in someone elses house – usually in the basement – became free agents and wanted more money, and a live-out job, and a Metropass (if in Toronto). Probably different by community, but in our nook in the city there is a going rate for live-outs, apparently, and it entailed more money, and less working hours.

These caregivers needed to earn more to pay for their rent and food, so they could go to school and begin to prepare for their life in Canada they dreamed about when they made the decisions to leave their families and come here.

Not entirely fair to the employer now is it? One day you have a nanny, the next day they are expecting a huge raise and to live out and if you cannot afford the higher salary you get 2 weeks notice, and 2 weeks notice is not enough time to find a suitable replacement, let alone time to sponsor someone from overseas.

Not exactly fair to the caregiver either, I’ll tell you.

You see, my family and our caregiver have really bonded. I mean she looks after the most important things in the world to me, my children and she also teaches them, keeps them safe, keeps my house clean and keeps them fed. Whew. It’s a lot, and in return for this, we pay her, but not just monetarily. We also consider her to be part of the family and in doing to we have always encouraged her to consider life after being a caregiver, life with an open permit and what she wants to do when she grows up.

In my opinion, far too many nannies jump at their opportunity to leave their employer once they receive an open permit and they leave a happy, loving situation to make more money but become more miserable and for what benefit? Nobody wins that situation.

For years now, we have been working with our caregiver on what she needs to do to succeed post-nanny so she doesn’t leave us to work at Tim Horton’s the rest of her life (unless she wanted to) or to be a caregiver for another family – still nowhere near her career goals and dreams. We had already cut back hours for education, recommended courses and locations, and we will do whatever we can to help her hit the ground running full steam ahead into her next career when she’s ready to make that next step, and I strongly feel that as employers we should all be doing this. I do it for my staff that report to me at the office, why wouldn’t I do it for her?

Since we took the time to get to know her and build a relationship with her, we can help her prepare for life after us, and hopefully keep her a part of our children’s lives. Also gives us piece of mind for babysitting.

So if this sudden influx of open permits has caught you by surprise and you have managed to sort through the process think about how you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes, or if you cannot, think about how you would want to be treated if you were an employee working in an organization. Would you want your employer to talk with you about life after that job, career development and opportunities, or would you want them to work you to the bone – content that they are paying you – and then waiting for you to be offered another opportunity and threatening to leave before getting that better offer.

I think we all know the answer to that.

Posted in family, government, Life

How having an opinion can get you in trouble.

Here is a copy of a Facebook conversation I had with a friend of mine who has run for the Conservative party municipally and Provincially.  He posted that he will was invited to a dinner event with Immigration minister Jason Kenney, who I just posted about due to my concerns with the recent changes to the live-in caregiver program.
I congratulated my friend of over 20 years and asked him to get some information for me.  Now looking back, and knowing my friend, there was no way he would just up and question the minister, however if he had a moment, I guarantee he would ask for me.
Someone saw this exchange and must have thought I was criticizing my friend, or the progress being made by this government – which I kind of am doing – and below is a transcript of the conversation.
Urbandaddy: Awesome, Mike Yen. Can you ask Jason what he’s doing with the Canadian Live-in Caregiver program? He’s messing up the agencies and the nannies already in it. He’s causing headaches for the employers too. I posted a couple in-depth blog posts you can refer to @, if you’d like.
Person: Urban Daddy, you’re little unfair to the minister.. and also mike, by not completely briefing mike prior to meeting Jason kenny.First off you make no reference ( in your blog ) to ” why ” the new changes have been made. Nor do you offer any history into the amount of abuse that was bestowed, under the old rules.There are very good reason’s for the change.Caregivers now have 4 years to get in two years employment,( or equivalent hours ) up from 3 years. This was done, to allow the employee freedom, and not be locked into miserable jobs because of a calendar. Under Minister Kenny, a hot-line has been set up “just for caregivers” working / living in abusive situations… no other minister had done this before.

Clamping down of unscrupulous agents and consultants has been a great accomplishment by Minister Kenny. Maybe a blog on that topic would shine some light on the other side of the fence. And then another one or to on the “abuses of authority” employers rein down on some of these woman.

And of course the wait time to be processed is going to be longer.. more people are applying for the PR, and of course the process time to get here will be longer, more people are applying to come here.

Over the last 5-7 years, there has been a popular and very lucrative and in many cases, unscrupulous, industry created around ( primarily ) Filipinas coming to Canada via Hong Kong, Singapore, and Dubai. Again, this explains the extended wait times.

In my experience, the only ones that are “really upset” with the minster’s new rules, are those that are attempting to live off the avails of caregivers. See consultants and agents above.

To send Mike at the minister, using only the info in your blog, could very well be an embarrassment to him.

Jason Kenny has done a great job with the changes. They are not perfect, but the door has been slammed on the bastards that were using and abusing the caregivers. And for that, he gets my full respect.

Urban Daddy: Hi.  I don’t think I’m being unfair to Mike at all, actually. I’ve known him for over 20 years personally and Mike would never just read what I’m writing and speak to the Minister on that. I was hoping that if he knew him and had a moment to ask him about where the government is going on this he would. Mike’s a pretty strategic fellow. And as for my views on the program, I’m coming at it from a very honest straightforward view. I worked in government, and I’ve employed nannies (still do). Going through the process for me was a little more difficult because it had to be even more by the book. While I understand there has been some corruption in the program, I have never seen it personally, so I’m looking out for the honest folks, like myself, the agency that helped us on 3 occasions and the wonderful woman who have helped take care of my children.
– I’ll saw here that a lot of what this person said was legitimate, however, had he read any of my 3 blog posts on this topic he would know that not only do I have the government experience, and I’ve sponsored 3 nannies and helped them all go through the program, complete their paperwork and get jobs after, but I have also sent my posts to an amazing nanny agency called Wee Care here in Toronto to vete my thoughts to ensure they are not biased.  This agency is about as legit as you can get and just for doing business they are required to jump through hoops. 
I’m all for getting the bad guys but let’s not lose sight of the fact that not everyone is a bad guy.  Good guys can complain too about process / procedures because they make little sense.  Those trying to cheat the system will do so regardless of what obstacles are in front of them,.  So why make the honest guys suffer.  My kids current nanny is this petit sweet very Christian girl who just wants to get her residency so she can get her career moving and help her family back home.  She wants to run a business here and upgrade her education.  To do so, she needs her residency but until that time she can’t even take courses.  She’s devoted 4 years of her life to this country and in return she is asked to wait an additional 18 months to get her residency.  If the minister really wanted to be fair to everyone, he’d grandfather (grandmother) the current group and start fresh with the next lot.
Back to the discussion –
  • Person: Urban Daddy, my wife is a Filipina, that came into this country through the caregiver program.. I have met many caregivers, and only one, has had what I’d consider a really good employer. By that I mean her employer stuck to the duties spelled out clearly on the contract.Caregivers are not dog walkers, snow removers, lawn cutters, house painters, furniture movers, car washers, gardeners ( read: weed pullers ) etc. However, most, almost all, are called upon to perform many of the tasks I’ve noted. Employers are getting all those services for min wage. If they were to pay the caregivers market value for those extra tasks, ok, then that would / could be acceptable.. but that is not the case.What Minster Kenny has set up, is a system whereby, caregivers can now leave their slave-driving employers, with no penalty to themselves. This is a great change.

    I agree with you, there are a few good agencies. Just a few. The new guide lines, are closing down the exploiters very quickly. I just heard of another one tonight.

    The new wait times are longer. I know this can be frustrating.
    But there are more than enough here, that will accept part-time, until the other caregiver arrives. We’re currently waiting for my brother in-law to arrive from Dubai. There’s a job waiting for him when he arrives, and until then it is being filled by a woman with a PR Card. She’s aware of the temporary nature of the job. Plus, she’ll be working there on the weekends when he’s with us. And of course, under the new guidelines ( as I’m sure you’re aware ) no fee’s are being charged to the employee, for the job.

    I really think it’s noble how you care for your employee’s future here in Canada. I also believe we have a great guy ( Minster Kenny ) steering the ship.

    Whenever I get frustrated at the new rules, ( that my brother in-law is experiencing ) I just think of the added protection to the caregivers.

Again I appreciate that this is his view, however, now in over 6 years of employing caregivers and having many at our house, often, I cannot say that I have ever seen this.  I have not heard of, nor would I ever ask an employee – nanny or tax staff – to do something not in their contact.  Again I think each person sees different things or gets asked different things.  I’ve been asked if nannies are allowed to go out at night, or if they are on call 24/7 and yes, I have set people straight.  How else do people learn. 
I like some of the changes to reduce nanny abuse and require them to be treated equally under the law as a regular employee but to up the costs to employers and make life difficult and expensive for potential employers tells me the minister is trying to make this program available only to the rich and I have problems with that since it’s usually the middle class who need the live-in caregivers so both parents can work as it’s a cheaper option that a live-out caregiver.
All I wanted from the minister was answers… Where is he going with the program.  I ended the conversation this way: It looks like we both pretty much see things the same way. Happy to see corruption kept out of the program and let the legit businesses run properly and help those fantastic workers do their stuff and come to be productive Canadians. Pleasure having this discussion with you. I’ve learned a lot. Cheers.
What are your thoughts?  If you comment and you have either a nanny or an agency, please disclose.
Posted in government, news, politics, urbandaddyblog

Huge changes to the Canadian Live-In Caregiver Program are underway

The worst kept secret is finally out, that there are huge changes underway to the Canadian live-in caregiver program. In Friday’s Metro News in Toronto (a Toronto Star daily) is was reported that the number of caregivers accepted in Canada last year through this program declined last year to 8,400 from its previous high of 13,800 in 2007.

In 2008 it took just under 1 year to bring a nanny to Canada from overseas and currently that process takes upwards of 18 months to get this done. In addition, the latest requirement that employers pay the transportation fees to being the nannies over, plus the additional scrutiny that potential employers must go through, there are less nannies getting through the system, as it’s getting expensive for the average Canadian.

With fewer nannies arriving, the current group of nannies are being expected to work longer – under the program, a nanny could complete her requirements of working 2 years within 3 years of being in the program, and then could apply for an open permit while applying for permanent resident status. Two years ago, a nanny could have her permanent residence in less than 6 months after that. Nowadays, Citizenship and Immigration Canada is processing permanent resident requests much slower, taking up to 2 years per item, so nannies applying for this need to remain employed, thus prolonging their stays.

The belief is that the government would prefer to keep these jobs in the country and have employers hire locally trained nannies to keep Canadians employed, by making the program expensive for potential employers and difficult for potential nannies to be brought over to Canada and then in the process for them to become permanent residents.

Nannies working in Canada under the open permit are generally not allowed to attend Canadian schools to upgrade their education and applying as a foreign student is extremely expensive and unattainable for a caregiver working for minimum wage.

In our case, our nanny has been in the country for 3 years, 2 years with us and one year elsewhere, and her permanent residency has been sitting with the government for almost a year. She is bright, ambitious and would be a model Canadian, however, she cannot take any accredited courses, and she will not be leaving us to work at Tim Horton’s, it’s our obligation to make sure she gets a great job to help herself support herself and her family. I love that she is staying with us, and once she gets her permanent residency, we discussed her staying with us to continue to work – reduced hours – while attending school to work on her English and find what she really wants to do with the rest of her life.

Too few people take that approach with their employees, I mean don’t you want all your staff to improve, to grow and to be successful?

This delay is going to drive away some great nannies caught in the system and deter them from contributing to this beautiful country.

Reach out to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and tell him… I did. I actually caught him on Twitter. He didn’t reply, but if enough people reach out, maybe they’ll see the light.

Between these delays and the new requirements on nanny agencies – they must have an immigration consultant, lawyer and paralegal – tells me they are tightening the screws. It’s good and it’s bad. It’s good if it’s being done to prevent exploitation and make the system work better but it’s bad if it is forcing those great nanny placement agencies who are barely scraping by thanks to the new regulations and requiring them to spend more money.  It will surely put some of them out of business too… Unless that is the point of this exercise.

Here is the contact information for Canadian Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney;

Constituency Office:

1168 137 Ave SE
Calgary, AB
T2J 6T6
P. 403-225-3480
F. 403-225-3504

Ottawa Office:

325 East Block
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
P. 613-992-2235
F. 613-992-1920



Twitter: @kenneyjason


What are your thoughts?