Canada wants higher protections for migrant employees, federal events say

Federal political events say they again stronger protections for migrant farm employees, following a Star investigation that uncovered hundreds of complaints made by Mexican labourers about abusive dwelling and dealing circumstances in Canada.

Presently, seasonal agricultural employees haven’t any capability to achieve citizenship in Canada. As a substitute, their authorized proper to work right here is tied to their annual contract with a single employer — so-called closed work permits that “facilitate employer management and exploitation of employees,” in response to a submission to the federal authorities made earlier this 12 months by advocacy group Migrant Staff Alliance for Change.

The Liberals, New Democrats and Greens informed the Star they supported measures that might give migrant employees the power to turn out to be everlasting residents in Canada. The Conservative celebration didn’t reply to questions on this system.

The Star lately revealed particulars of some 3,100 complaints by seasonal agricultural employees about Canadian employers made to the Mexican Ministry of Labour. They embody tons of of reviews detailing unsanitary housing, unsafe working circumstances, bodily and verbal abuse, in addition to retaliation for talking up about abuse. The majority of those complaints will not be shared with the Canadian authorities.

Reynaldo Garcia Aguilar walks back to the bunkhouse he shares with eight other migrant workers from Mexico just outside of Brantford. Aguilar has spent the better part of every year in Canada for the past 18 years.

Carlene Variyan, a spokesperson for the Liberal celebration, mentioned the federal authorities was “overhauling” the nation’s non permanent international employee program and is working to rebuild the integrity of this system” following “10 years of mismanagement” beneath Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

Canada has a number of immigration streams that enable employers to rent non permanent international employees to “handle a selected, short-term labour want” in sectors the place Canadians are “not out there.” Traditionally, these packages haven’t allowed employees to achieve everlasting standing right here.

Earlier this 12 months, the federal Liberals initiated a brand new program that provides migrant caregivers a pathway to everlasting residency in Canada, in addition to a pilot program to permit a restricted variety of different non permanent international employees to achieve everlasting residency too. However seasonal agricultural workers don’t meet the pilot’s eligibility standards, which require a minimum of 12 months prior steady work within the nation.

“Now we have revamped and are redoing the method to attempt to make it fairer, extra clear and extra comprehensible for individuals, and fewer onerous on each side if potential, whereas ensuring we’re defending individuals,” mentioned Liberal Chief Justin Trudeau in a September assembly with the Star’s editorial board and reporters.

“I believe the perfect path in that’s to make sure that non permanent international employees have a pathway to citizenship.”

In a press release to the Star, NDP spokesperson Mélanie Richer mentioned her celebration would revise this system to “guarantee a pathway to citizenship” for all non permanent international employees — together with seasonal agricultural employees.

“The federal authorities should do extra to guard non permanent international employees — many who don’t profit from the significant contributions they make to spice up our financial system,” she mentioned.

Some 25,000 migrant workers from Mexico come to Canada every year to plant and pick Canadian crops.

“If you’re ok to work, you have to be ok to remain,” she added. “It’s time to evaluate and strengthen this program.”

Inexperienced celebration agriculture critic and candidate for Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa Kate Storey mentioned her celebration has “dedicated to offering landed standing” for all non permanent international employees.

“Each individual taking a job in Canada ought to have the identical labour rights and advantages as different Canadian residents, together with the power to get assist from Canadian authorities ought to abuses happen.”

This summer season, the federal Liberals instituted a brand new measure to offer open work permits to some migrant employees who can show their employers are abusive.

In August, with the help of the United Meals and Industrial Staff union, a Mexican seasonal agricultural employee grew to become the primary profitable applicant for an open work allow. The employee testified that his Quebec-based employer didn’t present him with security coaching or tools, wouldn’t enable him to drink water on the job, chased him down a subject when he fell sick whereas working, and threatened to repatriate him to Mexico.

The Star’s investigation discovered vital obstacles to employees making use of for the allow: migrant employees, who typically don’t communicate English, should file an software on-line in English or French, and supply documentary proof translated by an authorized translator. The web site can be solely out there in English and French.

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The complaints obtained by the Star present some migrant employees battle to even go away the properties the place they’re working: on a minimum of 150 events, employees informed Mexican officers their employers didn’t present transportation — as is legally required — so migrants might do primary duties like shopping for groceries or sending cash dwelling.

“Utility types must be out there within the employee’s language,” Storey mentioned.

“A Inexperienced authorities will construct transparency and knowledge sharing into the Seasonal Agricultural Employee Program, so complaints that go to the authorities in a employee’s dwelling nation may be accessed by Canadian authorities.”

“Short-term international employees deserve equity, respect, and dignity,” added the NDP’s Richer. “Simply as we count on for all individuals in Canada who work precarious jobs.”

This story is a part of a collection made potential with the monetary help of the R. James Travers International Corresponding Fellowship.

Sara Mojtehedzadeh