MOSAIC’s Letter to the Editor calls on Government to provide greater protection for TFWs

April 17, 2014

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been in the news frequently these past few weeks, with stories often focused on how some employers are abusing the program. It is MOSAIC’s viewpoint that the entire program inherently lends itself to abuse because it lacks consistency and oversight. The Federal Government introduced the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to meet human capital demand, and has paid some attention to putting corrective systems in place. But while the case for needing migrant labour is clear – especially in BC, which is the destination for almost one quarter of all migrant workers – the word “temporary” is misleading as the labour shortage is forecast to become a chronic condition. The presence of Temporary Foreign Workers contributes to the overall economy by providing labour in areas that are under resourced or remain unfilled by local residents. Migrant workers also pay taxes and contribute to social benefit programs such as EI, although most will never be able to access benefits from their contributions. And yet, despite the fact that Temporary Foreign Workers are proven contributors to the overall economy of our communities and country, they have few rights and no official recourse if those rights – including basic civil rights – are not respected or abused. MOSAIC has provided programs since 2010 to assist Temporary Foreign Workers with English conversation classes, legal clinics and workshops, funded by private donors and the City of Vancouver. After April 1, 2014, the BC Government has provided one year of funding to organizations to deliver settlement and integration support services to Temporary Foreign Workers.It is our perspective that temporary foreign workers are a particularly vulnerable population since there is no mandatory monitoring or watchdog organization to ensure their rights are protected. In our interactions with these migrant workers, we found that many are economically exploited, charged illegal recruitment fees, misled about the work conditions, or paid sub-par wages. Even more concerning, some have been victims of human trafficking. Many are afraid to make complaints as this has previously led to being fired and/or deported. Even what protection they are entitled to is confusing as different rights are accorded to different classes of Temporary Foreign Workers, and other programs are just simply unregulated. Canada is traditionally recognized for having a welcoming, inclusive and just society. It is a reputation that has made this country a desirable destination for all who seek a better life than what their own countries can offer them. It can be a disillusioning reality when these individuals arrive to find that they have been misled or are mistreated and that there is no governing oversight to address those issues. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms offers protection for its citizens and permanent residents to live in a free and democratic society. It is past the time for the Canadian Government to provide basic rights and protection to all migrant workers coming to work in this country that would apply to all categories of foreign workers and have accountability for agencies or employers who fail to respect those rights. And it is equally time that we acknowledge Temporary Foreign Workers as contributing members of our community, and provide them with supportive services.

Sincerely Eyob Naizghi, Executive Director, MOSAIC.