Canada’s Human Rights Objectives and
the Live-in Caregiver Program: An Oxymoron
The prevalent experiences of migrant domestic workers sadly portray the iniquitous situation arising from the intersection of gender, race, class, and other bases of distinction. Apart from the fact that the labor migration policies of host states that attract these migrant workers are primarily driven by self-interest (e.g. economic and labor market needs unmet by the local population), the international human rights regime has likewise failed to address adequately the multiple disadvantages faced by these individuals in an increasingly globalized and complex world. The dominant ideology seems to be that which perpetuates the grievous paradox where goods are allowed free passage across territorial boundaries while human beings are increasingly being restricted entry or full acceptance in various ways.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) is a clear instance by which people from Third World countries are lured to migrate to a developed country through a program which requires them to render live-in caregiving work, for a family belonging to a higher social status. The unequal power relationship is evident on the surface and even goes deeper if we will consider the desperate political and economic conditions that the migrant domestic worker tries to escape back home. The requirement to perform fulltime live-in domestic work had even been referred to as a form of “indentured servitude” . Consequently, the systemic barriers faced by these women in trying to integrate into Canadian society perpetrates various forms of human rights violations contrary to Canada’s avowed policy objectives.
It is therefore apt to reconsider the LCP or abolish it altogether, if Canada is to be consistent with its claimed objective of upholding the human rights of all individuals within its territory.
Deanna Santos is a doctoral candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University. Her research interests include international human rights law, immigration and refugee law, alternative approaches to international law, transnationalism and globalization.
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