Migrant workers in Canada face deteriorating conditions

Canadian Council for Refugees
Media Release

    For immediate release
18 December 2012

Migrant workers in Canada face deteriorating conditions

Today, International Migrants Day, the Canadian Council for Refugees expressed its concern about a series of changes over the past year that reduce migrant workers’ rights.  As a result many migrant workers in Canada are worse off than they were a year ago.

‘Things are going from bad to worse for the over 100,000 “low-skilled” migrant workers in Canada', said Loly Rico, CCR President. “The Canadian Council for Refugees has deep concerns over the government’s approach to migrant workers as disposable, short-term labour with fewer rights and protections than Canadian workers.”

Migrant workers in Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program are vulnerable to exploitation because of their temporary status and restrictions on their work permits. While the transition to permanent residence for “high-skilled” temporary foreign workers is being made faster and more flexible, “low-skilled” migrant workers still don’t have access to permanent residence.

Changes of concern over the past year:

  • In March 2012 the government announced that migrant workers could now legally be paid up to 15% less than their Canadian counterparts, for the same work.
  • Starting in July 2012, migrant workers applying for permanent residence through the Provincial Nominee Program must satisfy minimum language requirements that are often difficult for “low-skilled” workers to obtain during the time allowed. For most “low-skilled” migrant workers, this change closes the only door to permanent residence previously open to them.
  • As of 6 December 2012, migrant workers will have their access to Employment Insurance benefits stripped away, despite the fact that these same workers and their employers contribute as much as $303 million annually into Canada’s Employment Insurance scheme.

In November, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley announced that the government would conduct a review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The CCR welcomes this initiative, but more details are needed about who will be consulted and the criteria of the review.

The CCR is conducting its own review and performance evaluations of each provincial government, as well as of the federal government, on the protection of migrant workers’ rights. The report is scheduled to be released on 1 May 2013, International Workers’ Day.


Colleen French. Communication and Networking Coordinator, cfrench@ccrweb.ca, 514-277-7223, ext. 1, 514-476-3971 (cell)

Background information

For more information about migrant workers’ vulnerability to exploitation, abuse and even trafficking in persons, see Used and Abused: Migrant Workers in Canada at: http://ccrweb.ca/sites/ccrweb.ca/files/migrantworkers4pager.pdf