As a college teacher who often has occasion to work with young Caribbean people in Montreal whose mothers have preceded them to this country often by many years it has been my observation that these separations are very painful and damaging to the children as well. However, as Myrtle points out, there are very few options.
To compound their misery, often the domestic workers must look after the children of white Canadians and are required to give them a quality of care they must withhold from their own children. Evidently this is a care that many affluent white Canadians are unwilling to provide for their children themselves. Often the workers share rooms with babies and must get up to feed the during the night, tasks not significantly different from those ante bellum wet nurses in the South, except that in addition to baby-care, they are expected to put in long, back-breaking days of housework. In many cases they suffer on-going sexual harassment (in one case, repeated rape) and daily humiliations imposed by racist "teasing" by the children and their friends; sometimes they find themselves pawns moved around in the complexities of marriage difficulties. Even in the case of considerate employers, it is possible to feel unhappy, alienated and trapped:
One may ask irately, "Why do they put up with it?" One reason is that there is little work in the Caribbean, and that is poorly paid. Silvera weakens the book by not discussing this. The Caribbean countries, most of which are in the thrill of the World Bank, are among the most wretched victims of capitalist imperialism in the world. The women who come to Canada as domestic workers are doubly jeopardized. They are driven from their homes by the vagaries of capitalist colonialism, and when they arrive in Canada, they are employed per force by those people who benefit the most from the system which oppresses them. Indeed, they are often expected to give very positive affective care and companionship to the children and aged of that class. Some of the women met their first employers when the latter were vacationing in the Caribbean; I would have liked to see some attention paid to the effect of tourism as the central industry of the region and the climate of expectation which it creates in both tourist and worker.
When domestic workers come to Canada, they are 'welcomed' only on temporary work visas which can be withdrawn at the discretion of individual Immigration officers. They are permitted to work only as domestics until such time as they achieve landed immigrant status, which is difficult to get. The figure of the Immigration officer looms large in each life story. While there are regulations for the pay and working conditions of domestic workers in this category, very few employers conform to these. If the workers complain about the meager pay or outrageous working conditions, they might lose their jobs and/or get deported. If they change jobs too often (regardless of the reason), they might be perceived as "trouble-makers" and deported. Like most social victims, these women live in fear of the caprices of individual officers and in the thrill of their often exploitative and dishonest employers, not to speak of the savage nature of the immigration laws themselves.