This International Workers Day, migrant workers in Canada are still waiting for the federal government to take substantive action to protect them from exploitation and to recognize the value of their contribution to the Canadian economy and communities.
In the wake of the 2016 parliamentary committee study of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), migrant workers and their advocates have been expecting changes that will address the program’s serious shortcomings, that expose migrant workers to violations of their rights and deprive them of basic services.
In December 2016, the CCR welcomed the repeal by the federal government of the four-year cumulative duration rule. This rule limited migrant workers to a maximum of four years participation in the Temporary Foreign Worker program before they had to leave Canada for four years.
The CCR expected that further necessary changes would follow, to protect migrant workers’ rights.
However, the changes to the TFWP that were announced in the March 2017 federal budget favour Canadian employers of migrant workers, without addressing the many systemic problems that leave migrant workers vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by employers and recruiters.
Some changes may even worsen the situation of migrant workers. In PEI, workers have been brought to Canada for a 6 month, non-renewable work permit, under a rule exempting firms in seasonal industries from caps on the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers they can employ. The budget announced the extension of this rule. Some workers were not informed that they could only work for 6 months. In cases where they have paid illegally charged recruitment fees to work in Canada, 6 months doesn’t allow them to pay off their debts. This change to the regulations benefits employers, without concern for migrant workers and their needs.
The CCR calls on the government to be responsive to the very clear demands of migrant workers and their advocates which are reflected in the parliamentary committee report, to:
- Open work permits without restrictions
- Access to permanent residence for all migrant workers
- Access to settlement services
- Family reunification
- Increased and more effective monitoring and enforcement
May 1 2017