Upcoming mass ejection of Canada’s “disposable” workers

Canadian Council for Refugees
Media Release

For immediate release
25 March  2015

Upcoming mass ejection of Canada’s “disposable” workers

The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) today expressed its concern about the situation of thousands of Temporary Foreign Workers who will no longer be welcome in Canada as of April 1st.  This is the first wave of migrant workers to be affected by the new rule requiring low-skilled workers to leave after four years in Canada.

“Canada is treating these workers as a disposable labour force, to be used for a while and then discarded,” said Loly Rico, CCR President. “These are people who prepare and serve our food, or work in our factories. They deserve the same opportunity to settle permanently as previous generations of immigrants who came here with next to nothing and yet made this country what it is today.”

On April 1st 2011, a rule was implemented limiting low-skilled migrant workers to four years working in Canada, after which they would have to leave the country for at least four years before returning to work here again. This year will mark the first year that migrant workers are forced to return home en masse.

There is concern over the hardship this will likely cause affected workers. Many have families who depend on their remittances, and some are still repaying debts from recruitment fees illegally imposed on them. Some workers may choose to remain in Canada and seek precarious work, in order to keep providing for their families back home.

Promises of an extension of the work permit have been held out for some migrant workers in Alberta who have applied under the Provincial Nominee Program. However, there is a lack of clear information about government plans and workers are left in a state of anxiety about whether they can look forward to settling permanently in Canada or may need to leave Canada within a few days.

Low-skilled migrant workers are made vulnerable due to the rules of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which tie them to one employer. The workers are often isolated and face language barriers, and they have little support since they are not eligible for federally-funded settlement services. There are many documented cases of abuse and exploitation by employers and recruiters.

The time limits on migrant workers were intended to reinforce the temporary nature of the program, but much of the labour demand filled by Temporary Foreign Workers is in fact long-term.

The CCR believes that all migrant workers should have access to permanent residence, and that Canada should move away from temporary migration, and incorporate “low-skilled” immigrants into the permanent economic immigration stream, so that they too have an equal chance to contribute to building Canadian society.

For more on migrant workers’ rights, see: ccrweb.ca/en/migrant-workers

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Colleen French, Communication Coordinator, Canadian Council for Refugees, 514-277-7223, ext. 1, (514) 602-2098 (cell), cfrench@ccrweb.ca