Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dying Filipino caregiver in Canada is being kicked out

In my column last week on “Caregiver” the movie, I ended by saying the movie should have a sequel. Well, it’s that column piece that is having a sequel. And this is for Filipino caregiver Juana Tejada. Juana de la Cruz, the EveryOFW.

I now step aside to project the myriad voices raised on her behalf. First, let me quote portions of a stinging column piece (“Our nanny state, save for nannies,” June 11) written by Joe Fiorito for Canada’s The Star.

“Corey Glass may get to stay. He is the American deserter—call him a war resister; better still, call him a conscientious objector—who came to our country to avoid the war in Iraq.

“All parties in the House of Commons approved a motion last week urging the government to allow him and others like him to remain in Canada as permanent residents. The vote was 137-110 in favor. If the motion is not binding, it has moral force.

“He came here to save his life.

“At the same time we are kicking Juana Tejada out of Toronto and we are sending her home to die.

“Juana is from the Philippines. She came to earn a living looking after other people’s kids. She did not sneak across the border. She came to be a citizen. She followed all the rules.

“And then she got cancer.

“She must go. He might stay. There was no motion in Parliament for her. Why the hell not? Is it race? Is it class? Is it gender?

“There are perhaps 100 war resisters living in Canada at the moment. Their numbers are too small to be of import, but their presence illustrates a principle: we keep an open door. Remember Vietnam? ...

“We ought never to forget that nannies enrich our lives with their hard work. They raise our kids. They enable our lives of privilege. They are the working women who carry other women on their backs…

“We offered Juana a path to citizenship if she would wipe the snotty noses of our brats. But some dim bureaucrat—in Alberta of all places, where they have the least understanding of what life is like here, and now—has decided that Juana’s illness ‘might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health and social services.’…

“She came here in 2003. She came to work. Never mind her dues, she paid her taxes. It is as simple as that. Here is another principle: we are Canadian; we do what’s reasonable.

“Juana would have earned permanent resident status when her three years were up. She did not choose to get cancer in 2006. We are giving her no choice. We are sending her home to die…”

You can read Fiorito’s entire piece by logging on to The petition letter addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper is there for anyone to sign. I was the 801st signer. There is space for your own personal message.

I personally know one of the persons behind the petition. My US-based schoolmate Mila Alvarez-Magno and her husband Oswald are trying to gather as many signatures as could be gathered before Aug. 8, the day Juana is to be sent home. Here are excerpts from the letter:

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

We, the undersigned, respectfully file this petition on behalf of cancer-stricken Juana Tejada, a Filipina caregiver, who has been ordered to leave the country by August 8 and whose application for permanent residency has been refused on the ground that her illness might pose excessive burden on the health care system.

We regard the deportation order against Tejada as no less than a death sentence, and a cruel and inhumane decision. It tarnishes Canada’s excellent international reputation as a humane and compassionate nation…

Like the thousands who hope for a better life in Canada … Tejada answered Canada’s call for caregivers and has served in Canada since 2003, separated from her husband and six siblings. She worked hard in a low-paying job that demanded more than the usual number of working hours that other working Canadians enjoy, to earn her right to become a permanent resident. But for her medical condition, she would have been assured of permanent residency, able to sponsor her family, after the required three years of service as a caregiver under Canada’s Live-In Caregiver Program. Her cancer is a disease she did not choose to have. She might even have contracted the disease in this country. During all the three years when she was able, Tejada, in her small way, had supported the health-care system that she now desperately needs to care for her.

She is no burden to the health care system. She is being looked after by generous and compassionate doctors who are providing their services for free. She is buying her medications with the financial support of friends, neighbors, and members of her community.

Even granting that there is a cost to the system, surely, it cannot be said that in order to save a few thousand dollars in health care costs in this isolated case, Canada is prepared to suffer the ignominy of sending Tejada back to her homeland, the Philippines, a country with no socialized health care system, to die.

Caregivers like Tejada provide valuable home care services to thousands of Canadian families. They enable Canadians who use their services to lead productive lives, and to maximize their contributions to society. Unlike the thousands of refugees Canada is known to accept and protect from potential harm or death, Tejada has served this country and paid her taxes dutifully. She has more reasons to seek humanitarian protection and care from Canada than most refugees…

Canada’s greatness as a country rests, not on the stone-cold and literal application of its laws, but on the humane application of such laws and the wisdom of its national leaders in doing what is morally right….

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