Foreign workers need more protection: Saskatchewan

Province proposes new legislation, welcomes input by May 20
||Last Updated: 04/29/2011

Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Advanced Education, Employment and Immigration is developing legislative and regulatory protection for foreign workers that includes regulation of third-party representatives.

The province is proposing a new act that specifically addresses foreign worker issues. It would allow the government to target circumstances of abuse and mistreatment of foreign workers where they are most vulnerable — finding a job and completing the immigration process on the path to becoming a permanent resident or a temporary worker in Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) is the province’s main vehicle for attracting foreign workers. With strong demand for labour in the province, it has grown considerably in recent years, from 434 in 2005-06 to 4,195 in 2010-11, said the government. But with these dramatic increases, Saskatchewan has seen an increase in the number of complaints from foreign workers regarding abuse and mistreatment.

Although there are legislation and regulations in place to protect foreign workers, these may not provide adequate protection. The Employment Agencies Act is outdated and provides authority to levy a fine of up to $25 to anyone who charges another individual for finding them employment, said the government. Sanctions against offending employers and paid employment agencies that exploit foreign workers in the immigration process are generally limited to restricting access to provincial and federal immigration programs.

In addition, provincial protective programs with strong enforcement measures, such as the Labour Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993, are often not accessed by foreign workers and do not protect foreign worker against issues such as costs incurred during immigration, said the government.

An underlying challenge to developing a legislative regime to protect foreign workers is it involves two levels of governments. The federal government regulates the provision of immigration services while employment is considered primarily a provincial field and, by extension, so are the hiring processes used to employ foreign workers.

Employers are encouraged to submit comments by May 20, 2011. The survey is found at Saskatchewan legislation.

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