The plight of foreign workers

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Thousands of migrant workers arrive on Canada’s shores every year in search of a better life; higher wages, a better quality of living and a safe place to raise their families. But Canada’s temporary foreign worker program has become a bog of red tape and loopholes that merely benefit employers and leave workers out to dry. 

It wasn’t always like this. Until 2006, Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program brought in workers to fill specific jobs on a short term basis with workers that weren’t available in Canada. But under the Conservatives’ reign, the system has become abusive, recruiting foreign workers to fill every position from harvesting crops to flying planes and flipping burgers at fast food joints, for less pay and no job security. 

At the seminar held at the Explorer Hotel in Yellowknife and hosted by the Northwest Territories Federation of Labour, temporary foreign workers explained how they often live in fear of their employers, who are pulling all the strings and could end their contracts at a moment’s notice. Workers aren’t able to speak out about their concerns because they rely on their employer to nominate them to permanent resident status – which will never happen if workers speak out about their mistreatment, 16-hour days or unpaid overtime. Employers from Tim Hortons to Denny’s Restaurant have had crackdowns and faced massive lawsuits, but the payouts were merely “restitution, not justice,” insists Karl Flecker of the CLC.

What needs to be done

The abuse of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program needs to stop now. There are ways to make the system benefit both workers and their employers instead of the one-sided system now in place. The push needs to be to increase workers’ permanent immigration for migrant workers to bring their families and make a more diverse Canada. The government also needs to close loopholes in its hiring process to allow Canadian workers more time to apply for local jobs, and invest in job training and more apprenticeships.