Open Letter

To Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, MP Sean Fraser, and MP Jean-Yves Duclos

Filipina care workers in Canada, including nurses, personal support workers, and caregivers have faced incredible challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic while caring for the most vulnerable. Research, media, and deeply personal storytelling depict experiences of precarity, exploitation, and safety concerns in the workplace that are shaped and perpetuated by systemically unjust labour and migration systems. As we rebuild from the impacts of the pandemic, much of which continues to be felt among the most underserved and marginalized, we urge for your leadership and accountability to care for, protect, and honour our fellow care workers.

Since July 2020, the “Filipina Care Workers and COVID-19” research team has been working with frontline Filipina care workers to identify their needs, concerns, and aspirations amid the pandemic. Through photos and kwentuhan (storytelling), the women captured and shared with us daily moments of exhaustion, loneliness, and longing as they navigate work, inaccessible immigration processes, and family separation and reunification. With the pandemic, added challenges such as lack of PPEs and sick days, intensified working requirements, and precarious citizenship only worsened their experiences. 

A photo series resulted from this project: Matatag: Filipina Care Workers During COVID-19, which highlights the nuanced experiences of care workers from Vancouver, Alberta, Barrie, and Toronto. A powerful word in Filipino, matatag loosely translates to “steadfast amidst challenges”, and was used by one participant to describe themselves and how they have navigated the past year or so. 

For leaders of this country who have benefited from the labour of racialized women and temporary migrant workers, it bears no repetition that Filipina care workers are indeed matatag. They are resilient. They are the lauded heroes of COVID-19. But romanticizing the strength of care workers without brave, transformative, and just changes to harmful policies only fails to protect them. 

While bearing witness to these struggles, we do not forget that their experiences are a result of systemic failures in the health system and labour and migrant policies. To this day, promises have fallen short of making permanent a fair pay increase and instituted paid sick leaves for all care workers. While politicians and leaders continue to speak loudly against hate and racism and the importance of applauding the sacrifices of care workers, there have been little tangible policy changes to ensure migrant workers can live in Canada with dignity. 

We join Migrant Resource Centre Canada, Migrante Canada, Migrant Rights Network, and Decent Work and Health Network in calling for rights and protection for all care workers during COVID-19 and beyond. Our policy briefs outline key preliminary findings from our research, highlighting experiences of nurses, personal support workers, and care aides, as well as migrant caregivers. We call for immediate, brave, and transformative changes to policy that impact Filipina care workers. Below are our calls to action: 

Systemic reform in the health system is required to address fundamental gaps and failures that lead to burnout and precarity among racialized care workers:

Temporary foreign worker programs and policies fall short of protecting migrant workers.