Migrant workers left behind in 2017 Federal Budget

Joint Release from Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and Coalition for Migrant Workers

MEDIA RELEASE

Contact:     Sharmeen Khan – Migrant Workers Alliance for Change – 1-647-881-0440

Natalie Drolet – Executive Director, West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association – 1-604-669-6452 or 1-604-445-0661

March 24, 2017, Toronto — Migrant workers and advocates are angered that the 2017 Federal Budget failed to deliver promised details on reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.  The Liberals delayed their response to a Parliamentary Committee review of the TFWP in January by promising that details would be announced in the Budget.  But the Budget offers only a handful of paragraphs that ignore migrant workers’ critical demands for open work permits, permanent residency and robust rights enforcement.  Instead, the Budget re-announces policy positions that were originally announced in December or in the Liberals’ 2015 election platform.

“The Liberals are continuing to delay while migrant workers continue to face exploitation,” says Sharmeen Khan, Coordinator of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “The Budget acknowledges that migrant workers need protection for their rights to decent work and that migrant workers need access to permanent residency.  But the Budget doesn’t actually deliver any policy response to address these long-standing demands or dedicate resources to meaningful proactive rights enforcement,” says Khan.  “Migrant workers raised many important concerns in the TFWP review and the Liberals need to address them in a real way that delivers real change.”

Under the new budget, workers in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and the Caregiver and Temporary Foreign Worker Programs will continue to have their work permits tied to one employer. Furthermore, the exemption to “caps” in low-wage seasonal industries means further exploitation and precarity for migrant workers in sectors such as fisheries where an unlimited number of migrant workers are only hired for 6 months on a non-renewable permit.

The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development (HUMA) recommended in its 2016 review of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program that the government develop open work permits and pathways to permanent residency  for temporary foreign workers. Yet despite these clear recommendations, the Liberal government has refused to overhaul this deeply unjust and exploitative condition on Canada’s most marginalized workforce. While the government claims to continue investigating ways to developing pathways to permanent residency, no details or resources were given in the budget regarding how this work would be done.

“The vulnerability and violence we experience is a result of tied work permits,” says Gabriel Alahuda, a member of Justice for Migrant Workers. “I should be able to complain about my employer, or if needed leave and find other work without the fear of deportation. Without open work permits and permanent status, we are forced to stay in abusive working conditions.”

The Canadian government had an opportunity to rectify decades of abuse and mistreatment by ensuring that migrant workers have the same labour rights afforded to other workers. However, the failure of the government to protect this workforce reveals that the government’s priority is to maintain an exploitative and racist policy that provides a cheap, exploitable workforce for employers and disproportionately exploits workers of colour and women.
If the government is committed to building a “better future for temporary foreign workers” they must meet with migrant workers to develop direct paths to permanent residency, eliminate work permits tied to one employer and develop stronger enforcement to protect migrant workers from abuse. But so far, migrant workers and advocates have been waiting for over a year with no real commitment from the current Liberal government  to better the lives and working conditions for migrant workers.

For more information on our demands, please check go to our petition here.

Canada-wide migrant worker coalition calls on Trudeau to MoVE for Real Change

Newly launched Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights – Canada calls for end to discrimination against migrant workers. Press conferences in:

·         Charlottetown – 200 Richmond Street, 11am, Oct 28, 2015.

·         Edmonton – 14931 107 Avenue, 3:30pm, Oct 28, 2015.

·         Montreal – I.W.C, 4755 Van Horne, 10am, Oct 28, 2015.

·         Toronto – Suite 223, 720 Spadina, 11am, Oct 28, 2015.

·         Vancouver – 550 W 6th Avenue #100, 9am, Oct 28, 2015.

Online petition at www.migrantrights.ca

October 28, 2015, Canada – Migrant worker groups from across Canada are launching a historic coalition today to call on Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to end the discriminatory practice of tying migrant workers to specific employers and transition towards permanent immigration status upon arrival for migrant workers. The Coalition for Migrant Workers Rights – Canada  (CMWRC) is launching MoVE – a campaign for Mobility, Voice and Equality for Migrant Workers to call on Prime Minister Trudeau to keep his campaign promises to undo the harm done by the Harper government and to move towards a single-tier immigration system based on permanency and family reunification to ensure decent work for all.

Low-waged migrant workers are restricted to only working for the specific employer listed on their work permit. Changing employers is extremely difficult. This allows bad bosses to lower salaries and hold workers hostage to poor working conditions and threaten deportation when workers speak out. These practices lower standards for everyone in the labour market. A first step to ending this downward cycle is to untie work permits so workers have the ‘mobility’ to leave employers who exploit them. The next step must be to reorient the system towards secure, permanent immigration that protects ‘voice’ and ‘equality’.

“If we are still under the closed work permit, we feel so small, we are scared. We can’t raise our voice louder,” says Mariyah Fitriyanti, a Live-In Caregiver who recently transitioned from a closed permit to an open permit. “I have an open work permit now. Open work permit is good for us. We can change the employer without them abusing us further. With the open work permit, we feel free.”

“Mr. Trudeau has promised real change, and an immigration system that welcomes and values all of us and that means untied work permits and permanent immigration status upon landing,” adds Senthil Thevar, who was a Temporary Foreign Worker in Ontario.

“Over the past decade, deep changes were made to Canada’s immigration system that bring migrant workers into the country with temporary status under conditions that predictably leave them vulnerable to exploitation by employers and recruiters,” says labour and human rights lawyer Fay Faraday. “Tied work permits, mandatory removal after four years and lack of pathways to permanent status drive real precariousness for migrant workers.  There is an opportunity now for a fresh start to rebuild the system on principles of security, decent work and permanence.”

“Workers across Canada are facing precarious, low-wage jobs and tough economic times,” says Naveen Mehta, UFCW Canada’s general counsel, and director of human rights. “Too often we have blamed immigrants for unemployment in these times of economic downturn. Justin Trudeau can put forward a positive decent job agenda that raises standards for all workers, and end the arbitrary exclusion of migrant workers.”

MoVE Demands

·      Regulatory changes to make it easier for migrant workers to move between jobs thereby improving working and living conditions for Canadian born and migrant workers. Specifically:

o   Transition from tied work permits to open work permits

o   Remove limits on work permits and restrictions on Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA) including a 4-year time limit on workers ability to stay.

·      Permanent resident immigration status upon arrival for migrant workers.

WHO: Founding members of CMWRC:

●  Cooper Institute (PEI)

●  Migrant Workers Alliance for Change*

●  Migrante Canada

●  Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (Okanagan Valley)

●  Temporary Foreign Workers Association in Quebec

●  Temporary Foreign Workers Coalition in Alberta

●  Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregiver Rights

Media Contacts:

Toronto – Syed Hussan, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, 416 453 3632, Karen Cocq, 416-531-0778 ext. 221 (pour les français)

Charlottetown – Josie Baker, Cooper Institute, 902-894-4573

Edmonton – Dhon Mojica, Migrante Canada, 780-716-3809

Montreal – ATTET Quebec <attetquebec@gmail.com>Vancouver – Jane Ordinario, MIGRANTE-BC, 604-961-7794; Julie Diesta, Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers & Caregivers Rights, 778-881-8345; Natalie Drolet, West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association, 604-445-0661

Migrants and allies “plant justice” at Immigration offices

Sunday, March 29th, 2pm
Citizenship and Immigration Canada Toronto headquarters
55 St. Clair East. 

Toronto – Over a 100 migrant workers and supporters in Toronto will be planting seedlings and food at Immigration Canada headquarters to insist that migrant workers are rooted in communities. The “plant-in”, part of actions taking place in 8 cities across the country, calls for an end to the so-called “4 and 4 rule”, and for permanent immigration status for migrant workers. A live band will accompany the planting on Sunday afternoon.

Over 3,000 people have also signed a petition.

“Many of the people who are being forcibly uprooted on April 1st have lived in the country for longer than 4 years. They have families, friends, and relationships,” says Liza Draman from the Caregivers Action Centre. “Workers already face abuse from employers and recruiters because of bad provincial and federal laws, Pulling them away from their communities on top of that is unjust, inhumane and arbitrary.”

Approximately 70,000 low-waged workers in the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and Live-In Caregiver program are impacted by the 4 and 4 regulations, which bars the renewal of work permits past four years. The clock on the first 4 years started on April 01, 2011, but many workers have been in Canada for years prior to that.

“These laws aren’t good for workers or employers,” says Syed Hussan of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “It doesn’t serve anyone’s purpose to remove a trained workforce, and replace it with new workers that are less aware of their rights. Why does growing roots in Canada and holding down a job for four years result in deportation?  This mass deportation is classic economic mismanagement and is frankly irrational.”

People working low-wage jobs in service, retail, caregiving, manufacturing and agriculture among others are not able to immigrate to Canada permanently under existing federal law. At the same time, the Parliamentary Budget Officer recently noted that the number of Canadian citizens in “low-skilled” jobs has dropped by 26% between 2002 and 2013, highlighting the need for permanents immigrants in these sectors.

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The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) is Canada’s largest migrant worker rights coalition with 15 national and community groups.

www.migrantworkersalliance.org

MWAC is part of the Campaign Against the 4 Year Limit on Migrant Workers which is made up of 19 organizations across Canada. Its demands have been endorsed by nearly a dozen major national groups.

www.no4and4.tumblr.com

 

Parliamentary Budget Officer adds note of reason to TFW debate. Time to re-focus on migrant worker needs.

Media Contact:
Syed Hussan, Cell: 416 453 3632, Email: hussans@migrantworkersalliance.org

Toronto — The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, Canada’s largest coalition of migrant worker rights groups, is pleased with the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s (PBO) report released today entitled: Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada: A look at regions and occupational skill which adds a note of reason to debates around Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada.

“This report is resounding evidence that the hysteria around migrant workers stealing jobs from Canadian citizens is misplaced,” says Syed Hussan, Coordinator of MWAC. “In fact, there is a great need for low-skilled migrant workers to come to Canada, lay roots and settle permanently. It’s time to shift the dialogue to ensuring migrant workers are accorded rights to permanent residency by the Federal government as well as simultaneous provincial reforms where migrant workers are provided with equal access to provinicial labour rights and social entitlements The first step to this is ending the unjust 4 and 4 rule that uproots migrant workers who have worked in Canada for four years.

The PBO found:

  • At their peak, Temporary Foreign Workers make up 1.8% of the entire Canadian labour force.
  • Between 2002 and 2013, Canada’s low-skilled workforce declined by 26%
  • While low-skilled citizen workers experienced a large increase in unemployment following the recession, their number was essentially back at its pre-recession low by 2013.
  • Most low-skilled temporary foreign workers are in smaller cities where the number of low-skilled Canadian workers is often lower than the national average.
  • In general, there is insufficient data to show the relationship between foreign workers and labour shortages.

Important background:

  • The reported unemployment rate in Canada is 6.6%
  • At the end of 2013, there were over 1.3 million unemployed Canadian citizens and only 53,953 low-skilled foreign workers in the country.
  • Migrant workers pay all taxes into the system, but are denied full employment insurance, pensions; and access to subsidized housing, post-secondary education, and skills training.

Massive “Stop Mass Deportations” sign to be delivered to Joe Oliver’s office

March 4th. 1pm.
MP Joe Oliver’s Office. 511 Lawrence Ave. West.

Toronto – Migrant worker groups across Canada are speaking out against arbitrary time limits on low-waged workers. Mass deportations are expected as controversial regulations passed in 2011 start their impact on April 1st, 2015. Temporary Foreign Workers and Live-In Caregivers in low-waged jobs that have worked in Canada for four years will no longer be able to extend their permits and have to leave; those that stay will become undocumented.

“These regulations impose an artificial deadline on worker’s lives and relationships in Canada and enforce a revolving door immigration system,” says Tzazna Miranda Leal, Migrant Worker Organizer with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “The fact that these workers could hold down a job for four years, working 40-60 hours a week, proves that their labor is needed and that their jobs aren’t temporary. They deserve permanent status, not deportation.”

Liza Draman, a Live-In Caregiver organizer with the Caregivers Action Centre adds, “This 4 and 4 rule is a secretive backdoor to excludep Caregivers that are raising Canadian children and taking care of seniors. Its unfair, unjust and cruel.”

Approximately 60,000 caregivers are awaiting their permanent residency because of Immigration Canada’s backlog. As a result, many Caregivers, especially those who may have troubles at work, may not be able to get their open work permits within four years and may face deportation.

Senthil Thevar worked under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program in Canada and is deeply worried about these changes. “Workers like me paid thousands of dollars to come work in Canada. We work long hours, and often don’t even get minimum wage. Now they want to keep us for just four years, and then replace us. We are not chewing gum to be chewed and spat out.”

At least 70,000 workers currently in Canada, and approximately 50,000 entering each year will be impacted.

Deena Ladd from the Workers Action Centre adds, “This is not a solution for workers, employers or the economy. Workers lives will be less stable. Employers will be able to hire a new set of workers every four years who will know less about their rights, and will have to be trained at great cost. Together, this means an economy with greater turn-over, more temporary work and fewer rights.”

Actions are also taking place in Charlottetown, Edmonton, Guelph, Hamilton, Okanagan valley, Vancouver, Victoria. See full list: http://no4and4.tumblr.com/. Over 2,000 people have signed a petition athttps://www.change.org/p/stop-the-mass-deportation-of-thousands-of-immigrants-on-april-1st

 

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Source:
Migrant Workers Alliance for Change
www.migrantworkersalliance.org

Campaign Against the 4 Year Limit on Migrant Workers is comprised of migrant worker groups and organizations that work directly with migrant workers across Canada. Members as of February 21, 2015 include Fuerza Puwersa (Guelph), Migrant Workers Alliance for Change*, Migrante Alberta, No One Is Illegal – Vancouver, Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (Okanagan Valley) and Sanctuary City Hamilton.

*Migrant Workers Alliance for Change includes Alliance of South Asian Aid Prevention (Toronto), Asian Community Aids Services (Ontario), Caregivers Action Centre (Ontario), Industrial Accident Victims’ Group of Ontario, Justicia for Migrant Workers (Ontario), KAIROS Canada, Legal Assistance of Windsor, Migrante Ontario, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Social Planning Toronto, UNIFOR (Canada), United Food and Commercial Workers (Canada), Workers United and the Workers’ Action Centre (Toronto)

Endorsers of Campaign Against the 4 Year Limit on Migrant Workers

  • Canadian Labour Congress
  • Cooper Institute – PEI
  • Council of Canadians
  • MigrantWorkerRights – Canada
  • OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
  • OPIRG – McMaster
  • No One Is Illegal – Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories

Migrant worker groups across Canada raise alarm bells about 4 and 4 rule

Edmonton, Alberta: March 5, Women’s Day march and speakers forum, 1PM at the Luther Centre 10014 81 Ave.; March 17, Flor@20, Strathcona library 2PM
Guelph, Ontario: Guelph City Hall, March 1, 11am. Community walk.
Hamilton, Ontario: February 28, 11am, various locations.
Okanagan Valley, BC: March 4, community awareness and flyering, various locations.
Toronto, Ontario: March 4, 1pm, Stop Mass Deportation Order to be issued to Finance Minister, Joe Oliver.

Actions in other cities to be announced.

WHY:    On April 01, 2015, the 4 & 4 rule (Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations s. 200(3)(g)) will come into effect. Under these rules, low-waged workers in the Temporary Foreign Worker program and Live-In Caregiver streams  who have been employed in Canada for one or more periods totaling four years will be denied continued status and forced to leave. They are barred from re-entering Canada as workers for four years. Over 62,000 workers currently in Canada, and many others entering the country will be affected. Workers that choose to stay past four will become undocumented. The fact that these workers have been able to maintain a job for four years proves that their work is permanent, not temporary.

As a response to these changes, front-line migrant worker groups across Canada have come together to launch the Campaign Against a 4-year Limit on Migrant Workers. Migrant workers should be granted permanent residence, not forced to cut their ties with friends, family and community and leave. These exclusions target workers that make less than the prevailing wage in their province or region (approximately $23/hour); and place an arbitrary limit on relationships and ties built over years.

WHAT: Migrant worker groups across Canada are coming together to demand:

  1. An immediate moratorium be placed on the 4 & 4 rule, so workers here may continue to work.

  2. That permanent residency be given to migrant workers already in Canada.

  3. That migrant workers receive access to all social benefits and entitlements

  4. That legislation be enacted providing permanent residency for all migrants upon arrival.

WHO:   Campaign Against the 4 Year Limit on Migrant Workers includes Fuerza Puwersa (Guelph), Migrant Workers Alliance for Change*, Migrante Alberta, Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (Okanagan Valley) and Sanctuary City Hamilton.

*Migrant Workers Alliance for Change includes Alliance of South Asian Aid Prevention (Toronto), Asian Community Aids Services (Ontario), Caregivers Action Centre (Ontario), Industrial Accident Victims’ Group of Ontario, Justicia for Migrant Workers (Ontario), KAIROS Canada, Legal Assistance of Windsor, Migrante Ontario, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Social Planning Toronto, UNIFOR (Canada), United Food and Commercial Workers (Canada), Workers United and the Workers’ Action Centre (Toronto)

As of February 27th, campaign demands are endorsed by the Council of Canadians, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, MigrantWorkerRights-Canada, MIGRANTE – BC and No One Is Illegal – Vancouver.

For more information: www.no4and4.tumblr.com

Migrant workers prepare for more fees, shorter stays, no permanent status

Ottawa — Migrant workers and supporters are calling today’s announced changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program a ‘mass deportation order’ which will forcibly remove and cut-short thousands of workers’ stay in the country. These changes will also lock-in workers with bad employers, and fail to ensure expanded protections or permanent immigration status.

Quotes

“Today’s announcements are bad news for migrant workers. Migrant workers are still employed under an indentured system where they work without voice, without rights and without protections. In fact, today that system has been further entrenched. Genuine reforms would be permanent immigration status, anti reprisal measures and equal access to social entitlements. Instead, we are reinforcing a revolving door system where we are creating a permanent group of temporary workers that are denied rights that Canadians enjoy.”

— Chris Ramsaroop, Justicia for Migrant Workers, Member of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

“Today’s announcements underscore a two-tiered system. Low-waged and racialized people are being removed from the Immigration Ministry entirely, and with that many hopes for permanency are dashed. It’s a knee-jerk reaction that adds fuel to anti-immigrant fire. These changes also don’t deal with Canada’s jobless economic recovery since 2009. Not only will there be more abuse, more suffering, and fewer rights for migrant workers, there are no mechanisms for higher wages or decent working conditions for any worker in the country.

— Syed Hussan, Coordinator, Member of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

“Kenney confirmed today that migrants make up a small proportion of the labour force. The issue isn’t migrants taking jobs from citizen workers, its migrant workers being exploited and abused. That’s what migrant workers and their allies have raised for over a decade. Its obvious that the Federal government refused to listen to the voices of migrant workers.”

— Winston Morrison – Migrant Worker and Member of Justicia for Migrant Workers, Member of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

Preliminary Analysis: Impact of today’s changes on migrant workers

On more temporariness for migrant workers

  • Entrenching temporariness by reducing the length of time LMIAs will be issued and the cumulative period during which general low-wage temporary foreign workers will be allowed to remain in Canada will set an expiry limit on migrants’ lives, sever relationships and force thousands of workers to either leave the country or live here without rights as undocumented workers.
  • A further reduction in the number of years a migrant workers can stay in Canada will reinforce our current ‘revolving door’ immigration system where employers simply bring in a new group of more exploitable workers every few years.
  • A limit on the number of migrant workers that an employer can hire (10% for employers with more than 10 workers) will further reduce the ability of workers to switch jobs in sectors that are ‘at capacity’, forcing them to stay with abusive employers.
  • Higher LMO (now LMIA) fees (from $250 to $1,000) will be downloaded to workers as there is no national recruiter regulation framework.
  • Replacing the NOC system with wage levels does not account for the fact that many migrant workers do not actually receive the wages they are promised in their employment contracts.
  • None of these changes speak to the government’s general push to temporary, precarious, and conditional status across all immigrant and refugee programs, with huge discretion given to employers under both federal programs and provincial nominee programs.

On enforcement

  • A crackdown on employers abusing the program is not possible in the context of a complaints-driven enforcement system, which requires migrant workers to speak out against employers they are tied to. There are no systems to ensure that migrant workers will actually assert their rights, as complaining to MoL can lead to deportation and is therefore simply not an option.
  • The increased number, scope and reviewable federal program requirements of inspections will not affect the temporariness of the program, the lack of worker voice, or the lack of permanent resident status. Reducing worker mobility and length of maximum stay in the country will only increase the likelihood that complaints will not be made.
  • The expanded and improved Tip Line also risks failing to respond to situations where workers are experiencing violations in working conditions or housing in situations of debt bondage.
  • If increased inspections, tips, complaints, and public blacklisting of employers are successful, the government has made no indication what the impact will be on migrant workers.  Will they be free to stay, to change employers, to pay off recruitment fees and placement debts, and support and sponsor their families?
  • The additional funding for CBSA criminal investigations risks further criminalizing migrant workers, or painting them ultimately as victims without a say in whether they can go or stay here.
  • Apart from promised information-sharing that’s been demanded for a decade, there are no investments in partnering with provinces for proactive enforcement of labour and employment standards.
  • If the government were interested in genuine reforms to the program, it would not ignore the long-standing abuse of migrant farm workers and live-in caregivers. These sectors have been exempted from protections without reason.

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Media Contacts: Syed Hussan (416 453 3632, coordinator@migrantworkersalliance.org)

Suggested questions for Minister Jason Kenney & Chris Alexander’s announcement on TFWP today.

Ottawa — The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), Canada’s largest migrant worker rights coalition, is gravely concerned by leaked reports of changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) that seem to continue to punish migrant workers’ for employer abuse and government failure. The decision to limit the time migrant workers can stay in Canada, increased LMO fees, and limits on migrant worker hiring by employer will result in making migrant workers’ more precarious, and less able to assert their rights. This continues the trend of laws that construct and determine migrant worker insecurity. MWAC suggests the following questions be raised at the press briefing on reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program today. A full statement will be issued following the formal announcement and MWAC members will be available for comment.  
 
On raising LMO fees
 
There is no national framework to regulate recruiters and no national ban on charging migrant workers fees for work. In such a climate, how will you ensure that higher LMO fees aren’t simply downloaded to migrant workers themselves?
 
On caps on workers that employers can hire
 
There were 65,125 new LMOs issued for low-skilled workers just in the first half of 2013 (the 31,000 figure floated by ESDC does not include LMOs issued for workers already in Canada). It is already extremely difficult for migrant workers in Canada to change jobs. A limit on the number of available jobs would mean (as it already does in the food sector following the recent moratorium) that workers and their employers would know that switching jobs within the sector is harder if not impossible. How will you ensure that cap on workers an employer can hire does not simply result in further migrant worker abuse by employers and less willingness to complain by migrant workers? 
 
On time-limits that migrant workers can stay in Canada
 
Isn’t a time-limit just a revolving door where the same employer can just bring a new set of workers with less awareness of their rights and who are easier to abuse? Many migrant workers and advocates have argued that limiting the number of years that a worker can stay in Canada to four as of April 2015 will result in mass detentions and deportations, and many workers will be forced to become undocumented. Would further reducing the number of years that migrant workers live here not exacerbate that? Why is there no program to grandfather the workers already in the country in to full immigration status? Does the existence of various temporary foreign workers program since the late 60s not prove that there is a need for immigrants in such jobs? Didn’t all of the groups that ESDC consulted with support access to permanent residency for migrant workers? 
 
On targeting employers who break the rules
 
Labour law enforcement is the mandate of provinces. Under current federal laws, a migrant worker’s ability to stay in Canada is tied to their employer. The only way for workers to complain about employers that break the rules is by complaining to the provincial Ministry of Labour (MoL). How will you ensure that migrant workers will actually assert their rights, as complaining to MoL can lead to deportation and is therefore simply not an option? Will Ottawa actually be giving money for proactive labour law enforcement to the different provinces? 
 
On consultations that led to these decisions
 
Though there was one meeting with advocacy and labour organizations, was there any consultation with migrant worker groups on these reforms? How do you think migrant workers will respond to these announcements? 
 
On exemptions for ‘seasonal’ workers and live-in caregivers
 
Some of the worst allegations of abuses, including deaths, have taken place in seasonal industries like agriculture and hospitality. Why do the specific reforms aimed at curbing employer abuse exempt those migrant workers from protections?
 
On access to benefits


Closed work permits exclude migrant workers from equal access to social entitlements such as healthcare. Many sick and injured migrants lose access to healthcare once their work permits expires thus denying them access to desperately needed medical help. How will the changes announced today ensure that migrant workers do not fall through the cracks? 

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Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is Canada’s largest migrant worker rights coalition. It includes Alliance of South Asian Aid Prevention, Asian Community Aids Services, Caregivers Action Centre, Industrial Accident Victims’ Group of Ontario, Justicia for Migrant Workers,KAIROS, Legal Aid Windsor, Migrante Ontario, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Social Planning Toronto,UNIFOR, United Food and Commercial Workers and the Workers’ Action Centre. www.migrantworkersalliance.org

 

Migrant worker supporters pre-empt TFWP announcement calling for ‘Immigration Not Deportation’

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change
Media Release
June 19, 2014

Toronto – 75 migrant worker supporters gathered outside the offices of employer lobby group Restaurant Canada today calling for permanent status for low-skilled migrant workers in the country. Employment Minister Jason Kenney is expected to announce changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) this week. Actions also took place in Montreal, Ottawa and Calgary at ESDC and Jason Kenney’s office.

“The feds continue to make knee-jerk policies by press release that do not include migrant worker voices or concerns,” says Syed Hussan, coordinator of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), Canada’s largest migrant worker coalition, which organized today’s protest. “We need full immigration status for migrant workers in the low-skilled and agriculture streams immediately.”

Migrant worker supporters held signs that read ‘Immigration Not Deportation’, and chanted for over an hour. Changes proposed by Kenney in closed door meetings have included raising fees for Labour Market Opinions which advocates warn will be simply downloaded to migrant workers in the absence of comprehensive recruiter regulations. No announcements from the provinces are expected.

“Provincial and federal laws together that work to make migrants a second-class category of workers who are then pitted against unemployed citizens and permanent residents,” explained Tzazna Miranda Leal, organizer with Justice for Migrant Workers, member organization of MWAC.

“The solution is to give migrant workers access to permanent immigration status and remove those exclusions from labour protections for all workers. That’s what will make migrant workers and unemployed citizens allies in the fight for better jobs and stronger communities,” Leal adds. Advocates are also concerned about the changes to TFWP are exacerbating an anti-immigrant backlash where migrant workers are being blamed for joblessness.Two members of anti-immigrant group Immigrant Watch Canada responsible for racist anti-Sikh flyers in Brampton stood a block away holding anti-migrant worker signs. 

“Workers across Canada are facing precarious, low-wage jobs and tough economic times,” insisted Deena Ladd from the Workers Action Centre. “Let’s not repeat history’s mistakes of blaming immigrants for unemployment in times of economic downturn. We need a decent job agenda that raises standards for all workers, not an arbitrary exclusion of migrant workers.”

The protest also made connections between TFWP, and creation of temporary immigration streams for parents, grandparents and spouses as well as the drop in refugee acceptance numbers. 

“We need to understand the expansion of TFWP as one part of a dangerous shift in Canadian immigration policy towards temporariness and exclusion,” explains Perry Sorio, member of Migrante Canada, an MWAC member. “Permanency and stability are necessary to build healthy communities. We need to overhaul the entire immigration system and re-institute access to permanent status for immigrants in low-skilled occupations.”

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Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is Canada’s largest migrant worker rights coalition. It includes Alliance of South Asian Aid Prevention, Asian Community Aids Services, Caregivers Action Centre, Industrial Accident Victims’ Group of Ontario, Justicia for Migrant Workers,KAIROS, Legal Aid Windsor, Migrante Ontario, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Parkdale Community Legal Services, Social Planning Toronto,UNIFOR, United Food and Commercial Workers and the Workers’ Action Centre. www.migrantworkersalliance.org

Ontario Leaders Debate: Time to take a stand on migrant workers

Media Contacts: Syed Hussan (416 453 3632, coordinator@migrantworkersalliance.org)

Toronto — The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), Canada’s largest migrant worker advocacy coalition, is calling on Andrea Horwath, Tim Hudak, Mike Schreiner and Kathleen Wynne on the eve of the leaders’ debate to outline their vision for migrant worker rights in Ontario. Though Ontario has the largest number of migrant workers in Canada, there has been no mention of them in the political campaigns of the three leading parties despite national attention in the last few weeks. MWAC has sent questions to the leaders of the parties and is awaiting their response.

“Migrant workers are not inherently vulnerable, its provincial laws that exclude us from basic protections that make us so,” insists Liza  Draman, a migrant worker in Toronto. “Many migrant workers are women and racialized people who are being denied immigration status by the Federal Government. Ontario must step up. Ontario’s future government must commit to sitting down with migrant workers and update labour laws and other legislation.” (more…)