Caregiver crusader never lived to see the fruits of her battle
March 9th, 2009
As I write this column, the doctors at Toronto General Hospital are planning to take Juana Tejada off of life support.
I wrote about Juana in this column in June 2008.
Juana is a client of ours from the Philippines who applied to come to Canada as a nanny in 2002. Prior to coming to Canada, she underwent the required immigration medicals in Hong Kong and passed. She arrived here in 2003 and began the compulsory two years of service with a Canadian family, which would allow her to later apply for permanent residence in Canada.
When she finished her service she applied for permanent residence status and was required to undergo a second medical. Tragically, that medical showed that she had terminal cancer and was given a less than five per cent chance of surviving another five years.
In what can only be called a cruel April Fool's joke, on April 1, 2008 her application was refused on medical grounds. Our office intervened and had her case re-opened on a technicality. After a flurry of media attention, the immigration department reversed its decision and approved her application in principle. On September 10, 2008 she became a permanent resident of Canada.
While her own personal struggle with immigration laws was successful, Juana and her supporters sought the passage of a regulatory change that would exempt nannies who have successfully completed their two years of service from having to meet medical requirements a second time. The rationale behind this proposal is that all nannies who come to Canada must pass a medical prior to coming here so they must be healthy when they arrive. A second medical can only prove that they are either healthy or became sick while in Canada. Neither reason should be used as a basis to refuse the application of a person who has held up her end of the bargain with Canada. Interestingly, the live-in caregiver program is the only immigration category which requires the applicant to pass, not one, but two medical exams.
In August 2008 we wrote to Diane Finley, who was then our minister of immigration, asking her to pass the "Juana Tejada Law." This proposal would exempt nannies who worked here for two years from having to pass a second medical. The reply from Finley's office did not contain a hint of a commitment to even consider our proposal.
After the appointment of Jason Kenney as minister of immigration last fall we renewed this request. Again, no commitment. On Friday we received this reply: "Minister Kenney is sympathetic to the facts in this case. He is studying a number of options to improve the Live in Care Giver Program with a view to better protect Live in Care Givers."
Juana's fight for her own status has already been fought and won. The battle that remains is not for her but for other nannies and caregivers who will have completed their service in Canada but who will nonetheless be refused their just reward only because they got sick after they arrived in Canada. My associate Rafael Fabregas and I had hoped that Juana would live to see the fruits of the battle that she waged on behalf of her fellow caregivers.
I am afraid, that by the time you read this, we will have failed.
Postscript: Juana Tejada passed away at about 9:50 pm Sunday March 8th at the age of 39.