A report published yesterday, September 18th 2012 says that the Canadian Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the separate provincial temporary worker programs, create problems for low-paid temporary migrants and leave them vulnerable to exploitation.
Fay Faraday, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, says that the Canadian system creates 'made-in-Canada' problems for low-paid migrants. In her report, 'Made in Canada: How The Law Constructs Migrant Workers' Insecurity' she makes 22 recommendations for changes to the TFWP and to provincial temporary immigration programmes which would improve the lot of temporary migrants.
Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program permits Canadian employers to employ migrant workers in various occupations where there are skills shortages in Canada. Some of these are high skilled occupations such as academic level positions. These make up a small minority of the total. Professor Faraday's report is concerned with the majority of workers who are low-skilled workers and who come to Canada primarily to work in agriculture and as live-in care givers. The Canadian government says that about 150,000 temporary migrant workers arrive in Canada every year. Many workers come from the Caribbean.
Professor Faraday says that the problems for potential migrants begin before they even arrive. Many recruiters charge applicants to find them work. Immigrants may arrive in Canada to find that the work they are offered is inferior to that which they were promised. However, when workers arrive in Canada, their permit gives them permission to work for only one employer. This makes it difficult if not impossible for them to leave the inferior position. Because their work visa is based on employment with a particular employer they are scared to complain about any poor treatment or abuse. They are also required to live in housing supplied by their employer which increases their feeling of isolation, she says.
The Professor calls for a change in the law to make it illegal to charge migrants for their own recruitment. The fees should, in future, be borne by employers. She also recommends that the law should be amended so that investigations into allegations of abuse can be triggered by anonymous tip-offs and by complaints from community organisations. A body should also be established to hear allegations made by migrant workers.
Professor Faraday says that there are also problems caused by the fact that Canada's federal and provincial temporary worker programmes are separately administered and 'operate as silos'. She says that they must be integrated so that there is clarity and consistency. Also, workers must be given information about their rights when they arrive in Canada. They should also be given the right to unionise so that they can bargain collectively.
But the main problem the professor identifies is more fundamental. She says that the jobs that the temporary migrants come to fill, on visas which give them residency from between eight months and four years, are not truly temporary jobs at all. These are permanent full-time low skilled jobs. Because the wages are low, Canadian citizens will not take the work. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program makes it possible to import immigrants who will work for less but who will gain no right to permanent residency.
Temporary migrants fill a vacancy on low pay for four years before being forced to go home, only to be replaced by another temporary migrant worker on equally low pay. The Professor says 'The workers who are brought in are people who were, two generations ago, people who immigrated and did these jobs with status.' She says that temporary workers should not be excluded from Canada after four years of work. Rather, they should be allowed to apply for permanent residency.
'We need to think about why it is we are characterizing this work as temporary and why we are not addressing the core issues that cause the labour shortages' said Professor Faraday. 'Are we contributing to the growing income gap instead of bringing in citizens who can help build a nation? If the people are good enough to work here, why not good enough to stay?'
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