Class-action lawsuit seeks to ban closed work permits

Association cites 'striking power imbalance' between employers, workers

Class-action lawsuit seeks to ban closed work permits

A number of stakeholders are speaking up about how employers are apparently exploiting “loopholes” in Canadian laws to keep workers from their right to access justice.

The Association for the Rights of Household and Farm Workers (DTMF) – a Montreal-based workers' rights group – has filed an application for a class-action case to ban closed work permits, which bind foreign workers to a specific employer.

The association is seeking “a declaration that the provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, SOR/2002-227 (the IRPR) which currently allow the government of Canada to continue binding temporary foreign workers to specific employers (the Impugned Provisions) are unconstitutional and of no force and effect,” reads part of the lawsuit.

‘Imbalance’ between workers, employers

Employer-tying measures “create a striking power imbalance between the foreign workers and their employers,” according to the association. 

“If the relationship ends with the employer-sponsor (or group of employers-sponsors), the individual’s right to earn a living in Canada is immediately revoked. Employer(s)-tied household and farm workers are, therefore, extremely reluctant to resign or do anything that might jeopardize their employment relationship – including refusing unsafe work or [complaining] and [seeking] justice in case of a right violation. 

“Facing a state sanction if they are fired or resign (the immediate revocation of their right to work in the country), employer-tied workers are, according to the North American jurisprudence, placed in a legal condition of servitude.”

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program is a breeding ground for slavery, said Tomoya Obokata, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, after a 14-day visit to Canada.

The Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) and the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ) support DTMF’s initiative, according to a CBC report.

"Even if they have rights on paper, there is always the fear of [workers] being sent back to their country. There are always threats from employers. They are afraid of reprisals," said CSN vice-president Katia Lelièvre, according to the report.

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