Migrant Care Worker Activism in Canada: From the Politics of Everyday Resistance to the Politics from Below

Tungohan, E. (Under Contract)
University of Illinois Press

The purpose of this dissertation is to understand why, when, and how migrant care workers in Canada have engaged in political actions to resist their living and their working conditions. I do so by analyzing primary source documents at the National Archives of Canada and the Canadian women’s movement archives, conducting interviews with 103 migrant care worker activists across Canada and in various activist sites in Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines and Geneva, Switzerland and attending and observing various events sponsored by local and national organizations in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, by mainstram international organizations like the International Labour Organization (ILO) and by grassroots international organizations like the International Migrants Alliance (IMA). By assessing the multiple scales where migrant care worker activists resist their living and working conditions, I was able to trace the interlinkages between the ‘politics of everyday resistance’, of which migrant care workers’ individual and organizational forms of micro-rebellion are a part, and the ‘politics from below’ that characterizes the Canadian migrant care workers’ ‘movement.’ In doing so, migrant care workers counter academic and popular representations depicting them as being docile and compliant. They demonstrate their capacity to contest individual micro-aggressions at home and at work, to form ‘new’ transnational family arrangements to meet their needs, to shift the discourse on migrant care work, to faciliate important changes to Canada’s policies on migrant care work, to help ensure the passage of the landmark international “Convention on Domestic Work,” and to begin discussions on alternatives to labour migration and to sending countries’ economic dependence on receiving countries, among their many activities. Although the Canadian migrant care workers’ movement has key divisions – namely surrounding activist scope, strategy and normative inclinations – organizations representing migrant care workers are united in their conviction that migrant care workers’ interests matter and merit representation.