How welcoming is Canada amidst the labour shortage?

Recruitment of healthcare workers questionable

Filipino nurses, healthcare workers, and more overseas workers are not only highly sought in Canada, but in other countries as well. Yet, how Filipino workers are welcomed to Canadian society and its institutions bring many questions.

Opinion

Mildred German

Vancouver, BC – As the COVID-19 pandemic crumbles Canada’s healthcare system, Filipino nurses and healthcare workers have been in high demand. Several provinces in Canada have sought and are seeking agreements with the Philippines in regards to the importation of the much needed high-skilled labour amidst the shortage of nurses and healthcare workers.

Photo: Mildred German

In October 2022, Alberta and the Philippines reached an agreement to recruit more nurses to the province, CBC reports. Former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet shuffle), and now Alberta’s Premier, Jason Kenney has announced that the government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Philippines to bring more registered and licensed practical nurses to Alberta.

Along with other Canadian provinces and territories considering hiring internationally trained nurses and healthcare workers to bring solutions to the labour shortage crisis, the province of Saskatchewan also wants Philippine workers.

https://www.philstar.com/nation/2022/10/19/2217662/saskatchewan-wants-philippine-health-workers

RECRUITMENT FROM THE PHILIPPINES

The B.C. government has initially promised in 2020 in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to bring in 7,000 healthcare workers. Nearly three years since this announcement and since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Province of B.C. again made another promise as posted in the BC Government News website on April 19, 2022, “To meet the increasing demand for nurses in British Columbia, the Province is making it easier for eligible internationally educated nurses (IENs) to enter the province’s health system so they can support British Columbians’ health-care needs sooner.”

https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022HLTH0120-000589.

The news of Canada’s need for nurses and its active recruitment reaches the Philippines, with thousands of applicants looking for better pastures. A former US-colony, the Philippines has the Americanized education system which historically implemented the English language in the country, and trained Filipino nurses to serve in the U.S.

To date, Filipino nurses and overseas workers are not only highly sought in the U.S. and in Canada, but as well in other countries.

In the United Kingdom, the late Queen Elizabeth II, thanked Filipino nurses in 2021 for ‘selfless service’, Manila Bulletin reported. She told then-Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that the presence of Filipino nurses in the United Kingdom “bring exceptional care and comfort to their patients”, especially during the current global health crisis.

https://mb.com.ph/2021/07/05/queen-elizabeth-we-are-fortunate-to-have-many-nurses-from-the-philippines/

Photo: Twitter

However, in the experiences of the Filipino community in Canada, systemic racism has prevented many highly educated, highly-skilled, and English-speaking Filipino nurses, healthcare workers, and other professionals to practice their professions, to earn equal or equitable wage, to have their professional accreditations recognized, and to be reunited with their children and families in Canada.

Canada’s promises of pathways to permanent residency, and family reunification lure thousands of Filipino workers to come to the country. Yet, many Filipino workers faced many “knife’s edge” barriers.

As of October 2022, Canada’s immigration backlog remains at 2.6 million, affecting hundreds of thousands of family reunification processes. Particularly in hopes of reunification with their children and families in a timely manner, Canada still fails many essential Filipino workers, their families, and communities, and despite the completion of all the requirements for sponsorship fulfilled by these essential workers, the Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) family separation policies remain chaotic with unnecessary bureacratic mess. Why not allow Filipino workers to come with their families as they work in Canada? https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/mandate/stronger-immigration-system.html

THE LIVE-IN CAREGIVER PROGRAM (LCP)

What historically has been the oppressive treatment of internationally-trained Filipino nurses and healthcare workers in Canada over many decades has exacerbated the nursing and labour shortages Canada is facing now.

Policies, such as the now-scrapped Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP), an exploitative, anti-woman, and racist policy by the Citizenship Immigration Canada (CIC), which now is the IRCC, attest to the systemic racism and many exploitative conditions implemented for Filipinos and other people of colour.

Canada’s systemic racism has historically relegated highly-valued Filipino nurses and other healthcare professionals into low-wage jobs not related to their professions, into many unsafe and oppressive working conditions, and to endure family separation, deskilling, and lack of recognition of professional accreditations.

However, despite the oppressive conditions of the LCP, many groups and individuals did not support scrapping it. Then and now, there are those who rather sought to simply ‘reform the Live-in Caregiver Program’ arguing that it is a stepping stone  to come to Canada.

BLATANT RACISM AMIDST COVID-19

Many employers who accessed and benefited from the LCP and migrant labour would rather testify how ‘great employers’ they are rather than recognizing the power imbalance, racism, sexism, patriarchy, low wages, and systematized class exploitation attached to Canada’s labour and immigration policies.

In Canada, elected politicians such as former Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, have been reportedly making racist comments against people of colour and foreign-trained medical professionals.

Despite high credentials, years of hard work, and dedicated practice, Canada’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Teresa Tam, and Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Saqib Shahab, have also faced racism and racist comments against them amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

FIGHTING FOR RIGHTS

There is a strong political belief in Canada and North America that internationally educated nurses, professionals, and migrant workers are stealing jobs, resources, and opportunities from Canadians and Americans.

Given the history and the demands for abrupt solutions to the labour shortage, how truly welcomed are Filipino nurses, healthcare workers, caregivers, migrants, internationally-educated professionals, and the Filipino community in Canada?

Are Canadian unions and institutions welcoming to the internationally educated nurses and professionals deemed ‘stealing jobs from Canadians’? Are all workers’ rights and welfare protected in B.C. and Canada? What support awaits Filipino workers in Canada? What support awaits their families and loved ones if they die working ‘essentially’ in Canada amidst the COVID-19?

To solve the crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to correct past mistakes, will Canada eradicate its systemic racism, discipline its racist politicians, and abolish white supremacy in its policies and institutions?

For the sake of childrens’ rights, will Canada abolish family separation and allow Filipino workers to come together with their children and spouses as they wish?

These are only a few of the many questions also worth asking Canadian and the Philippine governments as they traffic Filipino bodies from sea to sea to work for rich nations as the deadly COVID-19 pandemic continues to loom.

Related article:

https://www.mediacoop.ca/story/canada-doesnt-support-essential-migrant-workers/37051

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