Temporary foreign workers face challenges in Canada

posted on February 3, 2014

By McGill Daily | Link to Article

By McGill Daily | Link to Article

On December 31, the federal government’s latest amendments to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) came into effect, including a change that prevented employers who had criminal convictions in human trafficking, sexually assaulting an employee, or causing the death of an employee from participating in the TFWP; however, the change was later dropped.

The TFWP was introduced in response to Canadian employers who claimed they could not find sufficient qualified workers in Canada, and allows employers to bring non-Canadians to work in the country for a limited time under temporary work visas.

However, the Immigrant Workers Centre (IWC) of Montreal, whose mandate includes educating workers about their rights and improving their living and working conditions, believes that the TFWP is a ‘revolving door’ immigration policy that breeds precarity among the workers in the program. As such, the IWC assisted with the creation of the Temporary Foreign Workers Association (TFWA), which had its first general assembly on November 23, 2013.

“The best people that can fight for our rights as temporary foreign workers [are] the same temporary foreign workers,” said Helena Sanchez, head representative for TFWA Montreal and a temporary foreign worker, in a phone interview with The Daily.

Sanchez came to Canada from Spain under the Experience Canada program, which provided her with a temporary open work permit. Even though it is a work-holiday program, Sanchez said that most Europeans come to Canada for the work and not for the holiday.

“It was super difficult to find a job, just because of the visa. I got this special number, which starts with a nine, that says that you are a temporary foreign worker,” Sanchez explained. “Employers don’t want to employ you, because they know that you would be obligated to leave the country in a year.”

“It’s cool that you have an open visa, but when you have an open visa not associated to any employer it means that you’re not going to have services. And [even] after a year I couldn’t go to [the] hospital. I paid all my taxes all year, like a normal Canadian [resident, but I had] no services, health insurance. I [had] absolutely nothing,” she added.

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