Well mannered and soft-spoken Juana Tejada was a motivational fighter for migrant nannies toiling in Canada to earn a better life for their families back in the Philippines. Tejada, an inspiration for many, died on Sunday at the Toronto General Hospital at the age of 39.
Her friend Connie Sorio said that in spite of the fact that she was confined to bed, she always said ‘no’ when asked about her return. Her friend said that though Juana was pretty reserved with very few words, she would always be remembered for the fighting spirit that she had.
Tejada was the founding member of the United Steelworkers’ Independent Workers Association and was also an inspiration for a group of live-in caregivers from Philippines, all of whom are struggling with the pain of cancer and immigration.
Sorio described how Juana took the lead role to act as the spokesperson of a campaign in order to bring modifications to the caregiver program in Canada, after she got her permanent residence. Juana never wanted any limelight and was extremely courageous, recounted her friend.
Tejada came to Canada in 2003 through a program that grants permanent resident status to foreign domestic workers after completing assignments for three years and also clearing medical and criminal requirements. When she applied for permanent residence status in 2006, she was diagnosed with colon cancer, following which she was ordered to leave Canada.
She finally won an appeal and acquired permanent status in Canada. Then she lobbied to adjust the harsh two-step medical exam required to be cleared by caregivers. Under the program she opposed, caregivers are required to clear a medical exam to enter Canada and then get through another exam while applying for immigration. Tejada and her supporters are of the belief that the second test is unfair and so, the immigration minister should remove its requirement.
Berna Salonga, the youngest sister of Tejada, said that she was fine till last week, but her health collapsed suddenly.