Migrant Workers call for permanent status and labour and human rights in wake of Temporary Foreign Worker Review
The Federal government’s acknowledgement of the need for reforms of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program today is a result of years of migrant workers advocating for themselves and fighting against against denial of their human and labour rights. Migrant workers members of Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada (CMWRC), the representative body for migrant workers in Canada, are calling on Minister McCallum and Minister Mihychuk to now swiftly introduce legislation for permanent immigration status for Seasonal Agricultural Workers, Caregivers and Temporary Foreign Workers in low-waged categories. As an interim measure, CMWRC is calling for open work permits, the licensing of recruiters, and an end to Harper era restrictions, including the 4 and 4 rule.
“For too long we have been treated like cogs in the machine, unable to change jobs, and the debate has been about profits over people,” says Francisco Moottoo, a temporary foreign worker from Quebec and member of Association des travailleuses et travailleurs étrangers temporaires, who spoke to the Standing Committee in May. “But we are human beings, we have families and we have feelings, and we are being denied the most basic of rights. The fundamental question is not how many migrant workers and in what industries, but what rights do we have. We deserve permanent immigration status on landing, we deserve to be able to change our jobs, we deserve to be with our families, we deserve happiness.”
All the migrant workers that participated in this review are members of organizations that make up the CMWRC. Migrant workers identified the need for permanent status on landing, open work permits, recruiter regulation, proactive labour investigations, and an end to the cumulative work permit, which are recommended in HUMA’s report today. Migrant workers also called for review of medical inadmissibility of Caregivers and repatriation of migrant workers for health concerns, which have not been addressed. CMWRC hopes that all its recommendations are swiftly implemented.
The report comes as agricultural worker members of Justice for Migrant Workers are marching over 1,500 kilometres from Windsor to Ottawa to mark the 50 years since the creation of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.
“Today’s report is vague and its recommendations are not specific, we need real changes. They are talking about expanding the SAWP program but that can’t happen without permanent status” says Farmworker Gabriel Allahdua who is in Guelph today. “We have been coming to Canada, and growing, harvesting, cleaning, packing and serving food for half a century, there is nothing temporary about us. We deserve permanent status.”
The HUMA committee has recommended a path to permanent residency for Temporary Foreign Workers, but migrant workers insist that a ‘path’ is not enough.
“Our job is never temporary, the work we do is permanent. Caregivers have a so-called path to permanent residency, but it’s not a path, it’s a minefield and it’s exposing us to exploitation, all of us migrant workers deserve permanent residence on arrival not long-term temporariness,” says Caregiver Teta Bayan from the Caregivers Action Centre who was forced to miss her turn to speak to the review. “We also need an end to the current Caregiver program introduced by the previous government which took away our right to permanent residency.”
**Migrante is a founding member of the National Coalition for Migrant Workers Rights Canada