Juana Tejada would be pleased.

Juana came to Canada in 2002 to work as a nanny under the country's Live-In Caregiver Program. Before coming here, she underwent the mandatory medicals and passed. She completed two years of work here and was therefore eligible to apply for permanent residence to Canada. To do so, she had to undergo a second medical exam. The results of that exam revealed she had terminal cancer.

Notwithstanding the successful completion of her term of service, her application was refused on medical grounds. Juana hired my firm to help her with this refusal.

While we were successful in having the minister of immigration overturn the decision and get Juana landed, we also hoped that, while Juana was still with us, we could bring about change to the program to avoid the rejection of other caregivers who might fall sick while working in Canada.

In August 2008, and with the support of a number of advocacy groups, we asked Diane Finley, then minister of citizenship and immigration, to amend our laws to remove the requirement of a second medical for nannies. On March 4, 2009 we wrote to Jason Kenney, who had by then assumed Finley’s portfolio, asking for the passage of the “Juana Tejada Law.”

Four days later Juana died of cancer. She was 39. Following her death, Kenney publicly expressed support for our proposal.

On Saturday he announced, “Our government fully supports the ‘Juana Tejada Law.’ We propose to implement this change in her honour, to ensure that no one else has to endure this same painful experience.”

The exact text of the proposed change will published on Dec. 19 with a number of other important amendments to the nanny program. These changes will include the following:

- Caregivers will now have four years instead of three in which to complete their two years of service.

- They will now be able to include 10 per cent of their overtime hours in this calculation.

- Employers will now be required to pay for the caregivers’ travel costs to Canada, their medical insurance until they are eligible for provincial health coverage, workplace safety insurance, and any recruiting fees owed to third parties;

- The creation of a caregiver hotline; and

- Emergency processing of work permits when a change in employment is urgently needed

These changes are the first major attempt to improve the nanny program in several years. Critics continue to call for the elimination of the “live-in” component of the program, as it is viewed as generally unnecessary, and in some situations, an invitation for trouble. Furthermore, making employers pay for travel, medical coverage, etc. can only act as a strong deterrent to employers thinking of participating in this program. This could make it difficult for nannies to find sponsors.

Nonetheless, it is a great day for those men and women who leave their families behind to look after our children and our elderly.

It is also a great honour for the memory of Juana Tejada, a brave young woman who waged a selfless battle for the rights of others, all while fighting a cruel and voracious disease.

Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. For more information, visit migrationlaw.com or email metro@migrationlaw.com.

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