Council of Canadians says TFWP needs comprehensive reform

The Council of Canadians has joined with the Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada and more than 50 organizations in a letter that says a planned federal review of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program must be based on the principles of human rights and dignity, lead to comprehensive reforms, and correct historical exclusions faced by migrant workers.

Responding to news reports of a Temporary Foreign Workers Review by the federal government, the letter calls for an end to the discriminatory practice of tying migrant workers to specific employers and to transition towards permanent immigration status upon arrival for all migrant workers.

In February, the Globe and Mail reported, "The Liberal government plans to launch a full-scale review of the controversial temporary foreign workers program. ...The Liberals say the Conservatives mismanaged the 2014 reforms and based many of their regional employment assumptions on inaccurate labour market data. ...The Liberals also believe a credible pathway to citizenship for foreign workers is needed. ...While the Liberals criticized the Conservative government’s handling of the program, the party did not propose reforms in its 2015 election platform."

The letter was sent to both MaryAnn Mihychuk, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, and John McCallum, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. It outlines principles to assist the government to design its review of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program.

Those principles include:
- The review must set as its goal the ensuring of permanent residency rights, family reunification, full social entitlements and labour protections for migrant workers.
- Migrant workers grow our food; take care of children, sick and the elderly and do the backbreaking work of building our economy. The review should celebrate and honour migrant worker contributions.
- Any review must reject treating migrant workers like commodities to deal with labour shortages or characterizing of migrant workers as external to the Canadian labour force and therefore impacting job opportunities of citizen or permanent resident workers.
- Migrant worker representatives must have a direct say in the development of the structure, scope and timelines of the review.
- Hearings should take place across the country, at times and locations that migrant workers are able to attend and speak freely in their own languages, and with protection from employer reprisals or being targeted by immigration enforcement.

Syed Hussan of the Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada says, "We’re not just calling for migrant voices to be central to the review on the TFWP, but for the expansion of human rights, labour rights, social entitlements and most importantly, permanent immigration status for migrant workers as the core guiding principles of such a review.”

As reported by iPolitics, "A pending federal review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program will be completed by the fall, Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk said Thursday [March 10]. ...The minister did not say when the review will begin."

To read the full letter and complete list of principles, please click here.

The letter has been endorsed by both the Council of Canadians and the Council of Canadians PEI chapter.

Council of Canadians chapters wishing to endorse the letter can still do so by completing the short form that can be found here.

The Council of Canadians has also been promoting the Leap Manifesto. That manifesto has 15 demands including, "We demand immigration status and full protection for all workers. Canadians can begin to rebalance the scales of climate justice by welcoming refugees and migrants seeking safety and a better life."

Further reading
Unifor links TPP and the struggle for immigration status for all workers (Feb. 17, 2016)
PEI chapter calls on Trudeau government to end discrimination against migrant workers (Oct. 28, 2015)
Council of Canadians opposes Harper's "four and four" rule for migrant workers (Feb. 27, 2015)