Canada must take action on a human rights-based approach to migration

Canadian Council for Refugees
Media Release

For immediate release
18 December 2018

Canada must take action on a human rights-based approach to migration

This International Migrants Day, the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) salutes Canada’s leadership in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and urges the federal government to take action to implement the Compact’s objectives in a Canadian context.

“Canada has played an important role in bringing countries together to improve respect for the rights of all migrants,” said Claire Roque, President. “While some of our laws and practices are seen as models for the rest of the world, there are other areas where it is critical we do better.”

The Compact aims to ensure that migration is well-managed and migrants’ rights are respected. Here is some of what Canada should do to meet some of the Compact’s key objectives.

Objective 2: Minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country of origin

  • Canada must prevent Canadian corporations, such as those involved in resource extraction, from conducting activities in other countries that displace people who then become migrant workers and refugees, including many from Indigenous communities.

Objective 6: Facilitate fair and ethical recruitment and safeguard conditions that ensure decent work

  • Canada must take responsibility for the conduct of recruiters that bring migrant workers to Canada. Current practices are often exploitative and result in workers arriving in Canada indebted and vulnerable to abuses, including labour trafficking.

Objective 7: Address and reduce vulnerabilities in migration

  • Canada must provide open work permits to all migrant workers. The current use of closed work permits tied to one employer is the root cause of migrant workers’ vulnerability, and can trap them in bad working conditions.
  • The federal government should move back to a focus on permanent immigration, opening the economic immigration program to include a stream for people coming to fill “low-skilled” jobs.

Following the spring 2016 parliamentary review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, reforms are overdue to protect migrant workers and help achieve the Compact objectives. The CCR welcomes the recently proposed regulatory changes to make open work permits available to migrant workers in situations of abuse. This is a step forward in recognizing and addressing the vulnerability of migrant workers to abuse. Additional reforms are needed:

  • Support services for migrant workers: The Migrant Worker Support Network in British Columbia, funded by the federal government, is a promising new initiative. It should be extended to the rest of the country, so that migrant workers in all provinces may benefit from support services.
  • Caregiver Program: The Caregiver Program is set to close in November 2019, and there is widespread concern about the future in the caregiver community. Canada must open an avenue to welcome these workers as permanent residents, and not force them to endure painful years of family separation.

Finally, Canada must sign and ratify the Convention on the rights of all migrant workers and their families to show that it is truly committed to the rights of migrants.

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Janet Dench, Executive Director, 514-277-7223, ext.2, 514-602-2098 (cell),