Temporary Foreign Worker Program
For the past 4 years I have worked with Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) at an Immigrant Settlement Agency in Edmonton serving a Canada’s most vulnerable and exploited workers in Canada. Immigration decisions in Canada are influenced by global trends and the global economy and the TFW Program is no exception. Unfortunately, Canada did not consider how the guest worker program failed in Europe and failed in the United States.
Originally the TFW program was designed for professional, seasonal agricultural workers and live-in-caregivers in Canada. In 2002 Citizenship and Immigration opened it doors to Temporary Foreign Workers. The economic boom in Canada prior to 2008 brought TFWs into Canada in record numbers. According to Citizenship & Immigration Facts and Figures 2009 more TFWs (282,771) were admitted into Canada than Permanent Residents (252,124).
The shift in immigration to permanently fill a labour shortage with temporary workers undermines the integrity of our immigration system, our Canadian economy and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and basic human rights. Here are some areas where the implementation of the TFW program goes against policies, objectives, charters and values of Canadian society:
- Freedom of mobility to live and work freely
- Protection from abuse and exploitation at work
- Rights to social supports and emergency safety nets as residents in Canada
- Lack of adherence and respect for family reunification
- Most recently, changes to wages to be reduced 15% for skilled temporary workers
- Exclusion from mainstream community and society
This TFW Program was destined to be a political headache from the beginning because it is a Federal Government Immigration Program. The federal and provincial tensions over how to administer the program remain unresolved. The lack of attention and priority to the needs of exploited workers is clear and we are starting to realize a disturbing future in Canada, a future that involves a permanent temporary work force creating “second class” citizens.
These are citizens with a different set of rights than other Canadians, different wages, discriminatory exclusion from mainstream services and limited protections from abuse in the work force.
Canada can be a leader with respect to immigration and change how it manages contract workers. Currently Immigration Canada chooses to let employers dictate what type of labour is required and shift away from Canadian core values of family, community and cultural inclusion. The best solution at this time is to shut down the TFW Program, let those contract workers who are already here stay and create a new program that is based on settlement and offers paths to permanent residence. Each province in Canada needs to move past the dialogue and consultation stage and join forces to take a vested interest in the people that it brings into this country, challenge policy and preserve human rights.