Do you know someone who takes advantage of a nanny?
I was speaking this morning with my children's excellent caregiver about the controversy surrounding Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla and the allegations that she took advantage of women brought here through the domestic caregiver program.
Whatever you think of Dhalla's particular case, a Star series on nannies has brought to light just how vulnerable domestic caregivers can be. Some of these women are often misled and mistreated by several different groups along the way to a "better life" in Canada.
Sometimes there's a person in their home country who offers to hook them up with a job overseas, then a shady agencies that lures them here on false pretenses, illegally charging them thousands of dollars for placement in jobs that may or may not be legit. Some of them wind up with employers who treat them as hired vacuums, abscond with their passports, expect them to work ridiculous hours for little or irregular pay and even withhold food.
My boys' nanny worked as a live-in caregiver for parents in Oakville who expected her to eat only the children's leftovers. Her eyes welled this morning as she talked of surviving on peanut butter sandwiches for that time. Hearing this makes my blood boil.
One of our nanny's friends is currently working for a family in my neighbourhood, Bloor West Village, who expects this woman to work from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. with no overtime pay. And sometimes her pay is late. This nanny feels like there's nothing she can do until she gets her open work permit.
Thanks to the Star investigation, these women can now call a nanny hotline to report bad agencies and employers. The number is 1-866-372-3247. I just texted this number to our caregiver and I'd encourage you to do the same. If you employ a nanny, sadly chances are quite good that she knows someone who needs to call.
There's something else you can do, too. When you're on the playground and you hear someone speaking about their nanny as if they're some kind of second-class citizen who should be grateful to have a job at all, call them on it. Share your opinion that just because we were fortunate enough to be born in a country with a robust economy and stable political system, it doesn't entitle us to treat those who were not like second-class citizens, or worse, slaves.
If you hear about someone making their nanny work for little or sporadic pay, or limiting their caregiver's freedom to move around by withholding a passport or threatening their work visa, pass that nanny the hot-line number. Out the abusers on the school yard or put a copy of the Employment Standards Act in their mailbox. Use your connections to help the abused nanny find work with a family who will appreciate her.
When we all act to make it clear that this behaviour is abhorrent, that's when we'll know we've done our bit.