OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants submitted a Brief to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for its review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).
OCASI made the following key observations and recommendations in the Brief:
The TFWP has grown at an accelerated pace over the last ten years and Canada has increasingly come to rely on temporary labour rather than permanent immigration to fill longer-term labour market needs.
Abuse and exploitation of workers across all migrant labour programs is rampant, and their vulnerability is exacerbated by their precarious immigration status. These concerns are extensively documented by a diversity of stakeholders including migrant worker groups, community agencies, civil society organizations and Labour and academic researchers.
Not included in the review, but of equal concern is the abuse and exploitation of migrant workers in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), a program that has been operating for fifty years without giving the workers who grow and harvest Canada’s food a chance to become permanent residents.
Certain employers of migrant workers and employer associations have begun to call for permanent resident status for the migrant workers already in the country, and for a permanent solution to labour needs rather than rely on a temporary program.
The scope and scale of the present review is not sufficient to address these concerns. What is needed is a comprehensive review of all migrant worker programs with the goal of ending all exploitation of migrant workers and preventing future abuse, and by taking the time to hear from all those affected, especially migrant workers and their families.
- Migrant workers in all temporary migrant worker programs should be allowed to access all the services that are provided to immigrants and refugees, starting with the federally-funded settlement program and beyond to other services including (but not limited to) healthcare, legal assistance and support, employment and other social services.
- Migrant workers in any of the temporary migrant worker programs should be issued an open work permit.
- All levels of government in Canada must better enforce the laws that govern migrant worker recruitment, employment conditions and occupational health and safety, as well as redress any gaps in worker protection; and all workers, regardless of sector of employment or immigration status in Canada, must be allowed the right to unionize and to bargain collectively.
- Give migrant workers who are here the opportunity to apply for permanent residence, and allow future workers a way become permanent residents.