Show trials conducted by Parliament's immigration committee notwithstanding, there are signs the Ruby Dhalla affair may yet elicit a constructive response from the federal government.
A single case should not effect a change in policy. But the allegations against Ms. Dhalla, brought forward by caregivers who complain they were mistreated while employed to assist the Liberal MP's mother, have brought attention to long-standing problems with the live-in caregiver program, which Jason Kenney, the Immigration Minister, is expected to address with proposed reforms in the months ahead.
Reports indicate that Mr. Kenney will act upon some of the suggestions made by the immigration committee, before it grew obsessed with Ms. Dhalla. Among his reforms may be better screening of employers for prior instances of abuse, and changes to make it easier for caregivers to leave untenable situations if they are overworked or otherwise mistreated. The rules surrounding the reasonable expectations of caregivers may also be made clearer, so that they are not unwittingly exceeded.
These changes would indeed make people who arrive in Canada (mostly from the Philippines) with little grasp of the legal channels available to them less vulnerable. But the government should not focus solely on employers themselves. Perhaps even more important is the manner in which caregivers enter the country.
As has been widely reported, recruitment agencies often take advantage of caregivers by collecting large fees in return for promised jobs that fail to materialize once they arrive in Canada, or that do not match their description. At the same time, there also appear to be a certain number of questionable arrangements in which bogus jobs are provided to caregivers so that they may enter the country, then find work once they are already here - a manipulation of the system that may also confuse matters for legitimate employers attempting to make good use of it.
Much of the enhanced regulation of agencies may come from provincial governments, and Ontario and Manitoba have recently pledged to provide it. But leadership in closing the holes in this federal program will need to come from Mr. Kenney. It is good that he appears prepared to provide it.