Occasionally a questioning voice is published such as this article written by the Toronto Star's Thomas Walkom. With news of alleged abuses of nannies by a sitting Liberal MP making the rounds Walkom asks:
Why does Canada have a special, temporary immigrant program for nannies? If we truly lack qualified live-in caregivers, why not admit them through the normal immigration stream?
And if we don't need foreigners to take care of children or the elderly, why admit anyone at all?
He notes that the nanny program is essentially a "legalized system of indentured servitude" and has been throughout its thirty year existence. Also he points out, like I did here in this post, that the potential to secure landed immigrant status after a mere two years of work is what makes these nannies co-operate in their exploitation.
More important, they have an incentive to stay silent. Those able to prove they have worked 24 months within a three-year period may apply for permanent resident status – the first step toward coveted Canadian citizenship.
It's a back-door immigration route that, at one level, satisfies all of the actors. Families with young kids (or, in the Dhallas' case, an elderly parent) get domestic help without having to pay the wages a Canadian might demand. Foreigners who otherwise don't qualify to get into Canada win a chance at citizenship.
Meanwhile, governments are able to appease middle-class voters who might otherwise demand a national child and elder-care system.
As a Commons committee reported this month, the nanny program is just one small part of a "temporary" foreign-worker system that has careered out of control.
Nanny work is by its character temporary work and if they are hired from abroad then they are temporary foreign workers and thus should not be allowed to apply for landed immigrant status. We don't allow this opportunity to migrant farm workers and nannies shouldn't be an exception.
Some would argue that we should extend this opportunity to all temporary foreign workers but that would do more harm than good since the potential for landed immigrant status is what makes temporary foreign workers exploitable.
Also, it is clear that temporary foreign workers are the cheap and easy option for employers who don't want to pay Canadians to do a job that they otherwise would do if it paid a decent income. It also discourages businesses and the government to invest in training a skilled workforce. In other words Canadians lose out.
First, it discourages employers and governments from training Canadians to do necessary jobs. Why spend money training unemployed citizens to build houses when skilled carpenters can be imported from abroad?
Second, it keeps a brake on wages. If employers can tap into the global reserve army of labour, they have no incentive to increase the productivity, and thus the wages, of their existing workers.
The recent decision of the cash-strapped Toronto district school board to shutter a state-of-the-art Scarborough trade school and the Manitoba government's campaign to recruit skilled tradespeople from Iceland are not unrelated.
If Canada gave landed immigrant status to all temporary foreign workers it would not only double Canada's immigrant intake to over 400,000 a year it would flood the labour market with unskilled and semi-skilled workers making life in Canada more difficult for the most vulnerable of its citizens. Canada has to be more self reliant to meet its labour market needs. Immigration should be a last resort.