Marites Navarro

A City of Changes: “Becoming” a Migrant Worker

Image 3.1 Flight from the Philippines to Toronto.

Coming to Toronto

Following approval by the Canadian government in 1987, Marites packed her bags in anticipation of her first ever journey on an airplane. Once she touched down in Toronto and walked through the arrival gate, Marites would officially become an Overseas Filipino Worker. The journey itself, however, was not an easy one. Fraught with problems from the beginning, including flight and plane engine troubles which required the plane to return to the Philippines shortly after its initial departure, Marites eventually landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport on September 6, 1987.

Living in a Home That is Not Her Own

Although the city of Toronto was foreign to Marites, living in an urban environment was not. Having attended university in Manila, Marites was accustomed to life in the city which made the transition to Toronto easier. Her sister, Jane, who also lived in Toronto, helped Marites arrange her working papers and invited Marites to move in with her before Marites began her full-time work as a live-in caregiver. While working, Marites was required to live in the home of her employers but returned to stay with Jane on her days off. This schedule created a dual-life for Marites, with two different homes and ‘families’. Marites’ close-knit relationship with her own family, especially her older siblings, was an  influential factor in her decision to move overseas and her sister’s support was a welcomed comfort at this time.

Image 3.2 Marites and nine of her fifteen roommates. Marites is pictured in the bottom row, first on the left.

The shared living arrangements were an adjustment for Marites. Having had her own apartment in Manila, she was not accustomed to her sister’s cramped home, let alone the home of an unknown Canadian family. Jane rented a four-bedroom house in the city with fifteen other women, all migrant workers themselves. As a consequence of moving to Canada, Marites was also no longer able to work as a Medical Lab Technologist when she moved to Toronto.

Audio 3.1 Marites recounting her flight to Toronto


What can Marites’ decision to give up her life as a skilled worker in order to come to Canada tell us about life in the Philippines?

What challenges did she face once she arrived in Canada? How do family connections help people to settle? What can be done to help migrant workers who don’t have this family support network?

The term “live-in caregiver” is defined in Section 2 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (“IRPR”) as “a person who resides in and provides child care, senior home support care or care of the disabled without supervision in the private household in Canada where the person being cared for resides”.

The United Nations defines a migrant worker as anyone working outside of their home country.

 Part 1

 Part 2

 Part 3

 Part 4

 Part 5

 Part 6