Last Updated on July 30, 2021
Ottawa is upping the level of protection it affords to temporary foreign workers after staffers with a government tip line received hundreds of reports of abuse earlier this year.
“The Government of Canada takes the safety and dignity of foreign workers very seriously,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino in a statement.
“Everyone deserves a work environment where they are safe and their rights are respected. These amendments will help us further improve worker protection and strengthen our ability to ensure employers follow the rules governing both the International Mobility Program and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.”
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In mid-March this year, Service Canada introduced live agent support to its pre-existing tip line to assist temporary foreign workers in reporting abuse, offering services in English, French, Spanish and more than 200 other languages.
Before the arrival of the live agents, callers could only leave a voicemail message in either English or French.
Now, though, callers who reach out for help through the tip line during hours of operation and do not speak either English or French can speak with a live Service Canada agent and a qualified interpreter.
Tip Line Has Interpreters For More Than 200 Languages
The interpreter stays on the call to provide real-time, accurate interpretation in the caller’s language of choice.
The results of the improved service for temporary foreign workers has been a growing awareness of the challenges they face.
This week, Ottawa decided to tackle those challenges with 14 regulatory amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Temporary Foreign Workers).
Under the changes, Canada is improving the protections for temporary foreign workers by requiring employers provide these workers with:
- information about their rights in Canada;
- reasonable access to healthcare services, and;
- health insurance when needed.
Employers are also being forbidden from reprisals against workers who come forward with complaints or charging recruitment fees to workers. Employers will also be held responsible for the actions of the recruiters who provide them with temporary foreign workers.
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Ottawa is also cracking down on employers by upping its inspections and allowing those who conduct these inspections to get documents from third parties, like banks and payroll companies that provide services to these employers.
Officials who assess applications from new employers for temporary foreign workers are also being given the authority to put a pause on Labour Market Impact Assessments if they suspect something is amiss.
“The health and safety of temporary foreign workers continues to be a key priority for the Government of Canada,” said Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough.
“While we have made progress, there continues to be gaps. We know that temporary foreign workers need better information about their rights, and better health and safety protections. Workers also need to be protected from reprisal if they come forward with a complaint, and bad actors need to be prevented from participating in the program.”
Each year, Canada welcomes up to 60,000 foreign agricultural workers. They make up about 60 per cent of all workers coming into the country under the TFWP.
So far this year, Canada has welcomed more than 41,000 such workers despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) is the stream most commonly used by agricultural producers. In 2019, about 30,500 work permits were issued under the SAWP, of which 9,100, roughly a third, arrived from participating Caribbean countries. The remaining 70 per cent were from Mexico.
They tend to go to work on farms in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia.