One of the places where systemic racism is the most apparent in our immigration system is in its treatment of domestic and migrant workers.

It is my firm belief that if you’re good enough to work, you’re good enough to stay.

For caregivers and domestic workers, justice means PR status upon arrival. Domestic workers, who are mostly women of colour from developing nations, are the only class of economic immigrants who are not given PR status upon arrival. Instead, they must endure precarious working conditions with uncertain immigration status and futures as they navigate pilot program after pilot program. As they care for Canadian families, the lack of PR status separates the workers from their own families.

For temporary migrant workers, it is long known that employer specific work permits put them in highly vulnerable situations where abuse and exploitation by employers are rampant.

The Canadian immigration must treat workers with justice and respect. No more abuse of migrant workers! Landed status now!

Globe: Employer fines for abuse of temporary foreign worker program rose by more than a third last year

The NDP has warned that closed work permits can make migrants tied to a single employer vulnerable to abuse.

“These migrant workers are often underpaid and their immigration status is tied to their employer through a closed work permit, making it virtually impossible for them to change employment or exercise their rights,” immigration critic Jenny Kwan said in an e-mail, calling for them to be given permanent status.

“Their precarious status immigration status lead to severe power imbalances, abuse and a fear to speak out.”

 

Globe: Caregivers from abroad to be given permanent residence on arrival under new pilot programs

Globe: Caregivers from abroad to be given permanent residence on arrival under new pilot programs

To qualify for the new enhanced pilot programs, foreign caregivers will need to have an offer for a full-time home-care job, meet the language requirements, hold the equivalent of a Canadian high-school diploma, and have recent and relevant work experience.

“This new pathway means that caregivers can more easily find proper work with reliable employers and have a clear, straightforward access to permanent-resident status as soon as they arrive in Canada,” IRCC said in a statement.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said there is a shortage of caregivers in Canada while those who come here from abroad to fill jobs are too often exploited and abused. She said their precarious immigration status makes them more vulnerable to poor treatment by employers.

She said Canada should stop classifying caregivers, who help many Canadians, as “low-skill” workers.

In an interview, Ms. Kwan said current language and education standards that caregivers must meet to gain permanent residence – brought in by the Conservatives before Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister – are unnecessarily stringent and have until now acted as a “roadblock” to caregivers settling in Canada.

 

 

CIMM#93: Closed Work Permits and Temporary Foreign Workers and Briefing on Recent Changes to International Student Policy and Plans for Future Measures

On the question around student housing, I absolutely think that it is essential for institutions and provinces do their part and I think that the federal government should show leadership and perhaps initiate a program wherein the federal government contributes a third of the funding, institutions provide a third of the funding, and the provinces and territories provide a third of the funding towards the creation of student housing, both for international students and domestic students. That way you can have a robust plan to address the housing needs of the students.

I'm going to park that for a minute and quickly get into the students who were subject to fraud. We have a situation in which students have now been cleared and found to be genuine by the task force, but they have not gotten their passports back yet. I don't know what the holdup is, and I wonder if the minister can comment on that.

Second, there are students who are still waiting to be evaluated by the task force, and the task force work can't proceed because they might be waiting for a date for the IRB to assess the question on their permit on whether or not it was genuine or whether or not there was misrepresentation. They are consequently in a situation in which people are just chasing their tails and they can't get to the task force.

On that question, will the minister agree that instead of making people go through that process with the IRB, the task force evaluation can move forward first so that they can be found to be either a genuine student or not a genuine student?

 

CIMM#92: Closed Work Permits, Temporary Foreign Workers and Committee Business

I want to thank the special rapporteur for joining us today at committee. I also very much appreciate your coming to Canada and looking into this issue.

As many of the witnesses have said to us, the issue around the immigration system as it's set up, with the closed work permit approach, is that it actually sets these workers up for exploitation. From that perspective.... It's not to say, as the Conservatives would suggest, that you were alleging that all employers abuse workers. I don't believe you said that at any point in time; rather, I think the issue is about the immigration system that Canada has.

Instead of having this closed work permit situation, what would you say is the remedy to address the exploitation that many of the migrant workers you spoke with directly experienced?

 

Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, United Nations, As an Individual
Tomoya Obokata

My recommendation is, certainly, to modify the closed nature of the program. If the workers are able to choose their employers at their own will, that reduces the instances of abuse and exploitation.

More importantly, whether it's closed or not, employers have to comply with the relevant legal obligations. I accept that a large number of employers already do. It's those others who do not who require further attention from the provincial and federal governments to see whether they can take appropriate law enforcement actions against those who breach labour standards legislation.

 

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
NDP

With respect to exploitation, one of the issues that migrant workers are faced with is that they don't have full status here in Canada; they have only temporary status. One issue that has been identified is the closed work permit. The other issue is in terms of having rights. Being able to have their rights protected also means that they have to have status here in Canada.

How would you suggest the policy side of things should be amended to ensure that these migrant workers have their rights protected?

CIMM#90: Briefing on Migrant Trafficking and Smuggling

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

I think it would be useful to have that. Seeing as the specific study of the motion is to talk about Mexico, I think it would be useful to have that information. We know that migrant workers, temporary foreign workers with a closed work permit, are subject to abuse, and this is an ongoing issue that I know the minister is aware of and the committee is as well.

From that perspective, there have been ongoing reports. In a recent report in Ontario, I think some 67 migrant workers were subject to abuse in that regard, but it's not the only example. There are many. I won't bother citing all of them. Many people have said over and over again that the reality is that, when people are subject to a closed work permit environment, they are actually at a severe disadvantage and are subject to exploitation.

I know that there's a system whereby the people themselves can report and go through the ministry to apply for an open work permit as vulnerable workers. Will the minister consider providing open work permits to people from the beginning—so that they're not having to face exploitation and then seek recourse—to be more proactive and pre-emptive in the face of this ongoing situation?

Marc Miller Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs, QC

It's something that we're definitely looking into. Obviously, we want to deal with the exploitation as it occurs, regardless of the conditions that people are in. It is clear that, when you have a closed work permit, it does make you more vulnerable. It makes you more hesitant to report abuse and take action, and it gives you less of an ability to move from one place to another.

Looking at the next policy options we have in our tool kit is something that both I and Minister Boissonnault are looking at intensely. I think it's something that we will be working to fix in the coming months.

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