Monday, March 9, 2009
Juana Tejada 1969 to 2009
Friends learned late today, March 8, of the death of our beloved friend Juana Tejada. Migrante Ontario extends our condolences to her husband Noli and her sister Berna. At around 9PM Juana lost her final battle. She died of cancer. (Photo Alex Felipe)
We in Migrante Ontario met Juana Tejada through her lawyer Rafael Fabregas. She was fighting for her right to stay in Canada. Juana was a caregiver that came to Canada under the Live-in Caregiver Program. She finished the 24-month requirement and was eligible to apply for permanent residency. Her dream of permanently living in Canada was broken when, after going through a medical examination, she was denied her right to stay. She was diagnosed with cancer and was told that she would be a burden to the Canadian health care system.
We kickstarted a campaign along with other community groups and individuals to support her fight to stay in Canada. “It has been determined that you meet the eligibility requirements to apply for permanent resident status as a Member of the Live-in Caregiver class,” read Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s decision letter dated July 17, 2008. This decision did not come easy. Juana and her husband were put in a very difficult situation. They had to endure anxiety and emotional letdowns after her application was twice refused because she was diagnosed with terminal illness. But despite frustrations, Juana remained persistent and confident. Through her lawyer, she challenged the previous decisions, and subsequently made an appeal on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
After her victory, she continued to advocate for the changes to the Live-in Caregiver program. Along with her lawyer, Migrante and other community groups, she pushed for the amendment of the immigration law, in particular, calling to amend section 38(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act immediately by adding members of the Live-in Caregiver Class to the list of applicants who should automatically be granted exemption from the “good health” requirement. This is known to most of us as The Juana Tejada Law.
Just two hours before her passing, around 15 of us held a prayer vigil at the Toronto General Hospital. We talked about her and the campaign that she started. “As we gather today to be one with Juana in the final stages of her battle with cancer, I cannot help but situate this battle in the context of the larger struggle against the cancer plaguing Philippine society – the cancer that is slowly killing our compatriots in the Philippines - the social cancer of poverty, landlessness, the absence or lack of jobs that pushed Juana Tejada to leave the Philippines in the first place,” said Ricky Esguerra of the Filipino Migrant Workers Movement.
Juana tirelessly campaigned until she was brought to the hospital. We were inspired by her courage and her commitment was contagious. We know only too well the importance of this campaign and the importance of her contribution to the fight to improve the lives of caregivers in Canada.
As we grieve the loss of our friend, we also commit to pick up where she left off and continue the fight that she started.
Rest in Peace Juana
Migrante-Ontario member organizations:
Filipino Migrant Workers Movement; AWARE; Philippine Advocacy Through Arts and Culture (PATAC); Damayan Migrant Education and Resource Center; Migrante Youth; Migrant Workers and Family Resource Center - Hamilton; Pilipinong Migrante sa Canada (PMSC) - Ottawa; Pilipinong Migrante sa Barrie (PMB) - Barrie