Parliament Video: Justice, respect and human rights for migrant workers - landed status on arrival

MP Jenny's Kwan's speech in Parliament on April 26, 2022 addressed the Liberals' failure to ensure the health and safety of temporary foreign workers.:

Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

"Madam Speaker, the findings of a recent damning report by the Auditor General exposed the Liberal government's failure to ensure the health and safety of temporary foreign agricultural workers, where ESDC provided little assurance that workers were protected during the 2020 and 2021 growing seasons, yet the minister announced that he will further expand the temporary foreign worker program.

It is so disappointing that the Liberal government has chosen to perpetuate a system that favours abuse and exploitation by increasing its reliance on temporary foreign workers. There is no denying that there is an imbalance of power in the temporary foreign worker program that has resulted in many migrant workers being exploited, including being subject to wage theft and poor working conditions. We have seen the horrors of how TFWs are put in substandard housing, unable to isolate in dense living quarters and unable to speak up, until their health was affected, during the worst of the pandemic.

This highlights the ongoing, deeply seated problems with the temporary foreign worker program. The sad reality is that even though the Liberals promised that they would take action to address this blatant violation of the workers' rights in 2020, the quality of the inspections has actually gotten worse. By continuing to add more TFWs to the system, ESDC will struggle even more to ensure their safety. It is clear that the Liberals are disregarding the rights of migrant workers.

There is this acceptance that the only way to solve the labour market challenges in Canada is to open the floodgates to temporary foreign workers. We need to abandon that concept immediately. We need to start looking at permanent immigration, while at the same time properly investing in domestic labour sources as part of a larger strategy. We need to acknowledge the failures of this policy and reject the approach of successive Liberal and Conservative governments of moving away from a balanced immigration system with a full range of skills. If Canada has a labour skills shortage, people should be allowed to immigrate to Canada with full status. We should, of course, invest in domestic training as well to ensure that locals are afforded every opportunity to fill Canada's labour market needs, including access to employment training.

Historically, TFWs were used to fill in positions that were truly temporary, for example visiting professors, specialized doctors, film crews, etc., people who have no intention of moving to Canada permanently, but the principle is long forgotten. We have steered away from that, and there are more temporary foreign workers coming to Canada than there are immigrants. This is simply wrong. The reliance on temporary foreign workers to meet the labour skills shortage means we are opening up the door for human rights abuses. The people whose rights are being robbed are essential workers. They are the people who help fuel Canada's economy. They are the people who take care of our loved ones. They are the people who help put food on our table. They are people who risked their lives during the worst of the pandemic to support Canadians. This exploitation has to stop, plain and simple.

Just 20 years ago, there were 60,000 temporary work permits in Canada. Since then, there has been a 600% increase to where it stands now, at over 500,000 people with temporary status."

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