Who is Salimah Valiani?

Salimah Valiani is a poet, an activist, and a researcher.

land of the sky: Calgary Launch, June 1, 2016



land of the sky: Toronto Launch, May 25, 2016



Feature: https://alllitup.ca/Blog/2016/Where-in-Canada-Land-of-the-Sky


New poetry collection (April 2016)


Pre-order at https://www.amazon.ca/Land-Sky-Salimah-Valiani/dp/1771332530/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1459930609&sr=8-5&keywords=land+of+the+sky


To a Unique Woman of the Western World

Rarely home

Lights often dim

She’s now sold her car

(even harder to keep track of her)

The woman next door

What does she do?


Works long hours

Longer than most in the shop

Who knows what work she is


When exactly she leaves

A hardy worker

Applies herself well

Does innovative things

Which take longer to do

(but then, she must have the time)


The woman next door

Wears a ring on her finger some days

Doesn’t on other days

Wears yet another ring on it

other days

Feeds herself

Keeps her own house

Pays the bills alone

While earning less than the male worker in her field


The woman next door

Is a single woman

Single women

Who knows what they do

from Letter Out : Letter In (Inanna Publications: 2009)

Briefing Note: An analysis of the recently reformed Live-in Caregiver Program in Canada

Briefing Note: An analysis of the recently reformed Live-in Caregiver Program in Canada [Updated]

December 15, 2014

by Salimah Valiani, PhD

The recently announced reform of the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) may be lauded for one key change: elimination of the live-in requirement for temporary migrant caregivers entering Canada. This is a demand that has been made by live-in caregivers, feminists and trade unionists for at least three decades. In eliminating the live-in requirement, the government of Canada is finally acknowledging that a host of abuses occur when workers are forced to live with their employers, including forced overtime, under or unpaid overtime, excessive charges for room and board, and sexual abuse. In the text of the current reform, government explicitly acknowledges that the live-in requirement has kept the wage of temporary migrant caregivers artificially low. In turn, government assumes that with the lifting of the live-in requirement, the wage for carework will increase thereby drawing-in more Canada-based workers and lowering demand for temporary migrant caregivers. This assumption is problematic, as discussed below. Additionally, it should be noted that temporary migrant caregivers may elect to live with employers regardless of the lifting of the requirement given that carework is poorly remunerated and living independently is costly when added to other obligations typically carried by migrant workers including recruitment fees and remitting money to family back home. While stating in the reform that workers may elect to live with employers who will not be permitted to deduct room and board from wages, government does not provide for a means of enforcement to ensure that this and other abuses do not occur after migrant care workers arrive in Canada.

Though as many feared, the option to apply for permanent residency after completing two years of carework in Canada has not been totally eliminated, it has been significantly narrowed. As of 2016, the time by which government hopes to have cleared the backlog of over 30,000 applications for permanent residency filed by LCP workers over the past several years, the number of caregivers on temporary work permits to be accepted as permanent residents upon completion of the program requirements will be limited to 5,500 principal applicants per year. Examining the number of temporary migrant workers entering Canada under the LCP in the past several years (Table 1), the new cap of 5,500 is cause for concern. Though not steady, the number of LCP workers granted entry to Canada has exceeded 5,500 by at least 1,000 for most years since 2003. This is a reflection of the need for caregivers in a country where publically-provided, affordable care for children, the elderly and the ill is in severe shortage. This shortage is unlikely to fade given shrinking public spending in most provinces and nationally.

Table 1. Entries of LCP workers, 2002-2013

2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Entries of temporary migrants under the Live-in Caregiver Program 4,664 5,007 6,624 7,103 9,050 12,930 11,848 8,740 7,521 5,878 6,242 4,671

Source: Facts and Figures – Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 2013

LCP workers are known to wait one year or more for the processing of permanent residency applications after completing the program requirements. Taking into account the estimated 30,000 caregivers waiting for processing of permanent residency applications, combined with the number of LCP workers granted permanent residency since 2008, the new cap is significantly below the number of permanent residencies granted under the LCP in the last six years for which data is available. (Table 2) In more detail, for analytical purposes, dividing evenly over the six year period the estimated 30,000 backlogged LCP permanent residency applicants, and adding that figure (i.e. 5,000 per year) to the number of LCP workers actually accepted as permanent residents since 2008, the cap of 5,500 is of further concern. As shown in Table 2, the new cap on permanent residency for caregivers is equal to about half of the permanent residencies to have potentially been granted to LCP workers since 2008 had a backlog not been accumulated.[1]

Table 2. Permanent Residency granted to Live-in Caregivers and Unprocessed applications, 2003-2013

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Live-in caregivers, principal applicants granted permanent residency 2,230 2,496 3,063 3,547 3,433 6,157 6,273 7,664 5,033 3,690 4,845[2]
Estimated LCP workers with unprocessed permanent residency applications 5,000 5,000 5,000 5,000 5,000 5,000
Estimated permanent residencies granted annually under the LCP 11,157 11,273 12,664 10,033 8,690 9,845

Source: Facts and Figures – Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 2012, 2013, and figures computed by author

Perhaps the Canadian government has set a very low permanent residency cap for caregivers because it hopes to allow far fewer temporary migrant caregivers to enter Canada under the reformed program. To elaborate, in eliminating the live-in requirement, government assumes that demand for temporary migrant caregivers will fall. This assumption is likely based on the idea that under the more stringent ‘labour market impact assessment’ (LMIA)brought in under the larger reform of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, employers will be expected to raise the wage offered for carework to attract Canada-based workers. However, given that carework is historically undervalued in Canada, it is unclear that employers will be prepared to raise the wage to the extent required to draw in Canada-based workers, particularly for home-based carework.[3] In such a scenario, access to temporary migrant caregivers will be politically determined, as in the recent case of Microsoft, which the federal government has permitted to hire temporary migrant workers without undergoing the purportedly more stringent LMIA which would have obliged Microsoft to fill available positions with Canada-based trainees at relatively higher wage levels.[4]

In closing, the 2014 reform of the Live-in Caregiver Program is problematic in several ways. In maintaining the two year requirement of ‘Canadian work experience’ as a condition for permanent residency for temporary migrant caregivers, it allows for the carrot-stick relationship between employers and temporary migrant caregivers to continue.[5] In capping the number of care workers to be accepted as permanent residents, the reform invites division and competition among workers already difficult to organize given their precarious immigration status.[6] In toto, the continued carrot-stick relationship, the new permanent residency cap, and the new training requirement that caregivers must complete one year of Canada-based carework training (or prove s/he has gained its equivalent elsewhere) while fulfilling the two year requirement of full-time carework in Canada – render yet more improbable the ‘promise’ of permanent residency for temporary migrant caregivers in Canada. An acceptable reform of the LCP would include, at minimum, immediate permanent residency for all temporary migrant caregivers (and other migrant workers needed in Canada), a legislated, living wage for all care workers in Canada, and adequate public spending to create regulated, care programs for all in need.

[1] The cap does not include the permanent residencies to be (potentially) offered to family members of caregivers.

[2] This is a preliminary figure according to CIC Facts and Figures 2013.

[3] Home-based carework is the most undervalued form of carework in Canada, whether related to caring for children, the elderly, or the very ill. See “Valuing the Invaluable – Rethinking and Respecting Carework in Canada”, at http://www.ona.org/documents/File/politicalaction/ONAResearch_ValuetheInvaluable_201205.pdf

[4] For details on this story see “Microsoft gets green light from Ottawa for foreign trainees”, at http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/foreign-workers-microsoft-gets-green-light-from-ottawa-for-foreign-trainees-1.2870289

[5] For elaboration of the ‘carrot-stick’ relationship, see “The Shift in Canadian Immigration Policy and Unheeded Lessons of the Live-in Caregiver Program”, at https://www.ccsl.carleton.ca/~dana/TempPermLCPFINAL.pdf

[6] For an extensive exploration of the challenges and possibilities of mobilizing temporary migrant workers, including domestic and care workers, see “Mobilizing Temporary Migrant Workers – A Compendium of Forms and Preliminary Discussion”, at http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/1014.php

Report on PSI Health Migration Workshop: “Building Union Solidarity and Protection for Workers on the Move,” Durban 2012

SVdarkREPORT: Highlights of the 2012 Public Service International Health Migration Seminar-Workshop

“Building Union Solidarity and Protection for Workers on the Move”

Durban, South Africa, November 22-23, 2012

 by Salimah Valiani, PhD

Economist, Policy Analyst

Ontario Nurses’ Association

December 11, 2012

Public Service International (PSI) is the global public sector union federation bringing together more than 20 million workers of 650 unions, in 148 countries and territories. As stated in the PSI website, two-thirds of PSI members are women, working in social services, health care, municipal and community services, central government, and public utilities such as water and electricity.[1]

PSI holds its World Congress, or convention, every five years. This year marked PSI’s 29th World Congress, which was held in Durban, South Africa. I was invited to present analysis and action recommendations on the global integration of nursing labour markets at a pre-Congress event on health labour migration entitled “Building Union Solidarity and Protection for Workers on the Move.”[2] This seminar/workshop was organized by the PSI Migration and Health and Social Care Workers’ Programme, and was aimed at showcasing recent research completed in the Programme as well as finalizing its action plan for the 2013-2017 period. 

This report features highlights of the seminar-workshop, held November 22-23. The pre-Congress events were followed by the PSI World Congress (November 27-30).

Peter Waldorf, PSI General Secretary

  • The United Nations will hold a High Level Dialogue on Migration in 2013 – the second one following the first in 2007.
  • 37 affiliated unions from 20 different countries are involved in PSI’s Global Programme on International Migration and Women Health and Social Care Workers.
  • The Programme’s latest project is the “PSI Mapping and Participatory Research on Migration in the Health and Social Care Sectors.”[3]

Jane Pillinger, PhD, PSI Research Consultant

  • The research project involved over 1000 interviews by health union activists with migrant health workers, government officials and civil servants in Ghana, Philippines, Kenya, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the USA and Australia.
  • Among the countries studied, South Africa and Ghana had the highest levels of union density in the health sector, with South Africa at 40 per cent, and Ghana at 68 per cent.
  • Key to the strength of health workers’ unions in South Africa and Ghana is the cross-union, cross-occupational cooperation in the health sector. More specifically, the Agreement for Occupation Specific Bargaining (2007) in South Africa has allowed for increased wages for health workers, and in turn, decreased emigration. In Ghana, the 2006 Health Sector Salary Structure has achieved the same ends.

Jennifer Owyer, Kenya Local Government Employees Union

  • For the 38 million population of Kenya, 80,000 health workers are required to serve the population. Currently in Kenya there are only 28,000 health workers.
  •  The retirement age for nurses in Kenya has been increased to 60 to try and retain nurses in the Kenya health labour force as increasing numbers of young nurses emigrate.

Rosa Pavanelli, FPCGIL (Italy) and newly elected General Secretary of PSI

  • The European public sector union federation (EPSU) and the European Hospital and Healthcare Employers Association have been collaborating on a Code of Conduct for Ethical Cross-Border Recruitment in the health sector. The Code consists of 12 principles (ex. freedom of association for migrant health workers, fair and transparent contracts).
  • Given current austerity policies, this approach is no longer viable as governments are in the process of cutting the public sector workers, including those who would regulate around the Code of Conduct.
  • Nevertheless, in Italy, FPCGIL has used the 12 principles to review collective bargaining demands and assure that the union is negotiating the correct articles in collective agreements to protect migrant health workers’ rights.

Jillian Roque, Public Services Labour Independent Confederation – PSLINK (Philippines)

  • Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) on labour are another means of assuring ethical recruitment of health workers. The Philippines-Bahrain MOU on labour includes clauses assuring equal treatment of Filipino health workers employed in Bahrain, and a commitment by Bahrain to invest in the upgrading of health facilities and training institutes in the Philippines.

Abu Kuntolo, Health Service Workers’ Union (Ghana)

  • Health sector unions in Ghana, including the Ghana Registered Nurses’ Association, and unions representing physicians and other health workers collaborate through a unified salary structure. This salary structure is the product of much effort over the years, and together these unions meet with government to negotiate the spending of public funds in the health system.
  • One of the impacts of the unified salary structure is increasing wages for nurses and midwives. This has fed into a falling rate of attrition of nurses and midwives, from 38 per cent to 12 per cent in the past five years.

Perpetual Ofori-Ampofo, Health Service Workers’ Union (Ghana)

  • Health workers unions in Ghana are currently lobbying government around measures to reintegrate migrant health workers when they return to Ghana. The unions are also considering their role in reintegrating migrant health workers. This is crucial given the rising levels of temporary migration by health workers (i.e. on the basis of temporary work permits).
  • The Ministry of the Interior in Ghana is now developing a national migration policy.

 Annie Geron, Public Services Labour Independent Confederation – PSLINK (Philippines)

  • Ten mothers die giving birth daily in the Philippines. This is one of the effects of nurse emigration and the shortage of nurses in the Philippines health system.
  •  The International Labour Organization and European Union have initiated the Decent Work Across Borders Project. PSLINK is involved and the focus for the Philippines component of the project is nurse emigration.

Shirley Lee, New South Wales Nurses’ Association (Australia)

  • There are 56,000 members in the union, including 3,929 migrant nurses from 129 countries.
  • Fiji, Samoa, the Philippines, and African countries are some of the large sources of migrant nurses employed in Australia.
  • The union held a symposium on migrant nurses in October 2011.
  • The key issues arising for migrant nurses in New South Wales are the lack of information prior to emigrating, lack of support upon arrival in New South Wales, lack of recognition of prior learning and experience, the cost of bridging programs and registration, the cost of work visas, and the cost of living given that most migrant nurses are not earning wages equal to those of locally-based nurses.


[2] My presentation was based on my new book, Rethinking Unequal Exchange: the global integration of nursing labour markets (University of Toronto Press: 2012). For a copy of the presentation, “Temporary Migration and the Global Integration of Nursing Labour Markets: Analysis and Proposals for Action”, contact me at salimahv@ona.org