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.”

“Migrants work and live here, contribute to Ontario’s economy, but are treated as second-class workers. For too long migrant workers have been denied equal rights in Ontario. Its time to make it right.” say Syed Hussan, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change Coordinator. “Ontario has many laws on the books that exclude migrant workers on the basis of their occupation. There is tremendous need to expand protections.What will change for migrant workers after June 12th?”

Many workers in in Ontario are excluded from minimum wage, health and safety protections, access to universal healthcare, collective bargaining, housing protections, among other labour rights and social services because of their occupations. Migrant workers are over-represented in these industries, and doubly vulnerable because of denial of permanent immigration status by the Federal government.

Many migrant workers pay up to two years of their salaries in their home country to Canadian (or Canadian-affiliated) recruiters to work in Canada, leaving entire families in debt. As result of these debts, many migrant workers cannot exert their rights in Canada for fear of facing reprisals and deportations. Regulating recruiters and keeping track of migrant worker employers is an essential step to ensure basic rights for migrant workers.

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Migrant Workers Alliance for Change questions to:

Andrea Horwath, Leader, Ontario New Democratic Party
Tim Hudak, Leader Ontario Progressive Conservative Party
Mike Schreiner, Leader, Ontario Green Party
Kathleen Wynne, Leader, Ontario Liberal Party

For too long migrant workers in Ontario have been treated differently than other Ontarians. Ontario’s laws exclude migrant workers from minimum wage, housing regulations, protection from recruiters and strong protections  other labour rights. Migrant workers do not have the same access to health and safety as other workers in the province. This isn’t fair. It’s time to make it right!

1. Will you pass a migrant worker Bill of Rights to remove unfair exemptions from Ontario’s laws that exclude migrant workers from basic rights and protections on the basis of their occupation? These include changing health, housing, minimum wage, workplace safety, education and other legislation and regulations. In particular there is an urgent need for industry-specific regulations for agriculture and all agriculture related deaths must be followed by a mandatory Coroner’s Inquest. Migrant workers should be granted access to health services regardless of their immigration status.

2. Will you pass a fair recruiter and employer registration and regulation program, including joint and several liability and a financial bond as has already been developed and implemented in Manitoba, and other provinces?

3. Will you move to ensure that migrant workers in low-skilled occupations have access to permanent residency through the Provincial Nominee Program?