Below is a link to an situation for foreign nannies wanting to work in Canada.
Critics want crackdown as nannies exploited
March 17, 2009
Robert CribbDale Brazao STAFF REPORTERS
The federal government must prosecute nanny recruiters that prey on vulnerable foreign caregivers, say opposition politicians, industry insiders and the nannies themselves in response to a Star investigation.
"The government has a moral obligation to charge (them)," said NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow. "(Prime Minister Stephen) Harper's Conservatives are either soft on crime or asleep at the switch."
A weekend Star investigation found hundreds, perhaps thousands, of foreign caregivers have paid $5,000 or more for jobs in Canada during the past decade – jobs that too often turn out to be fake.
Faced with what is for them a crushing debt, some are forced to work illegally, others are deported and some end up suicidal.
Jim Karygiannis, a Liberal MP on the citizenship and immigration committee, says Canada must get tough with fraudulent recruiters.
"We are not going after the traffickers because it costs too much money to prosecute and they only end up getting a slap on the wrists. The most vulnerable are the caregivers and if we deport them or ask them to leave, (we) sweep the problem under the rug."
Instead of prosecuting rogue agencies, federal officials have, to date, focused on deporting nannies based on a 2007 Federal Court ruling that found caregivers with bogus contracts cannot stay in Canada even if they find a legitimate job.
Once nannies arrive in Canada, it's up to provinces to enforce labour laws. All four western provinces ban agencies from charging nannies "placement fees" for Canadian jobs, but the practice is common in Ontario. Some fees here reach as high as $10,000 for jobs that don't turn up, the Star found.
Asked if Ontario would consider tougher regulations around nanny recruitment agencies, a spokesperson for the labour ministry was noncommittal. "The province is studying options to determine whether additional protections are needed for foreign workers," Susan McConnell said in a statement.
Last week, federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney acknowledged problems with "large number of unscrupulous" agencies that exploit caregivers. "I know there have been cases of abuse and I've asked my officials for recommendations on how to tighten it."
Governments have failed to protect caregivers lured to Canada for phantom employers, says Agatha Mason of Intercede, a non-profit agency that counsels domestic workers. "It's just evil," Mason says of the fees firms charge for jobs that don't materialize. "It's a scary thing when you are in a new country ... and you have nobody to turn to."
The Star found some agencies, such as Rakela Care International in Thornhill, take passports from nannies who arrive to find promised jobs don't exist. Nine nannies who came to Canada through Rakela Spivak's agency told the Star they were housed in basements and apartments, sleeping on floors, sometimes 12 to a room.
Spivak, who owns the agency, told the Star she runs a reputable business, only takes passports for "safe keeping," and can't be responsible if employers decide they no longer want a nanny once they arrive.
Filipina Lester Lagat says she paid Toronto recruitment firm Jinkholm International $2,500, but "when I arrived, (agency owner Heron Tait) told me someone else went to my employer and she like this person so she doesn't need me anymore."
Lagat ended up going to two different agencies, which cost her nearly $1,500 more. "I knew I couldn't fight with (Tait). I was afraid. I didn't have any papers."
Tait admits Lagat's job disappeared and says it isn't his fault if an employer changes their mind.
Jennifer Wolff, owner of the Edmonton-based Nannies from Heaven, which places caregivers in homes across the country, says she's been warning federal officials for over a year about fraud in the Live-in Caregiver Program. Long delays in processing foreign nanny applications are prompting unscrupulous firms to import caregivers for bogus employers, she said.
"Not only does this seriously jeopardize the integrity of the Live-in Caregiver Program, it puts these desperate caregivers at risk," Wolff wrote to the Canadian embassy in Hong Kong in 2007. "How can such individuals even attempt to abide by Canadian rules when agencies are preying on them?"
The Star found some agencies compel nannies to open accounts into which all their pay is deposited until placement fees are repaid.
Diamond Personnel owner Audrey Guth has an "affiliate" financial arm that finances the debt of nannies who can't afford her firm's fees. A promissory note nannies sign with Somerset Financial (which Guth acknowledged is owned by her husband) requires nannies to open a bank account and "deposit all paycheques (there) until ... the loan is fully repaid."
Somerset Financial charges 18 per cent interest, a figure that is "high," Guth agreed. "I'm not a social service. I'm here to make money. ... It's a 100 per cent risk for me and there are girls that walk. There's nothing illegal about it."
The reporters can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-945-8674.