‘Workers need better information about their rights, and better health and safety protections’
The federal government is looking to provide better protections for temporary foreign workers.
The government has announced proposed new regulations to help prevent the mistreatment or abuse of these workers during their stay in Canada.
“The health and safety of temporary foreign workers continues to be a key priority for the government of Canada. While we have made progress, there continues to be gaps. We know that temporary foreign workers need better information about their rights, and better health and safety protections,” says Carla Qualtrough, minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion.
“Workers also need to be protected from reprisal if they come forward with a complaint, and bad actors need to be prevented from participating in the program. Through these enhanced regulatory amendments, the government is working towards providing stronger worker protection and ensuring greater employer compliance.”
Roughly 50,000 to 60,000 foreign agricultural workers come to work in Canada each year, which accounts for around 60 per cent of all workers who may enter under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Over 41,000 workers have arrived to date in 2021.
The government outlined 14 regulatory amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Temporary Foreign Workers), with three key objectives:
- Improving protections for temporary foreign workers by mandating employers to provide them with information about their rights in Canada; prohibiting reprisal by employers against workers who come forward with complaints; and, putting into regulation key requirements for all employers to provide reasonable access to health-care services, and for employers to provide health insurance when needed.
- Improving the government’s ability to prevent bad actors from participating in the program by providing authorities that will strengthen the assessment of applications from new employers and deferring the processing of a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) if non-compliance is suspected.
- Strengthening the government’s ability to effectively conduct inspections.
It also set aside $54.9 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to increase inspections of employers and ensure temporary foreign workers have appropriate working conditions and wages.
Ottawa also launched a $35-million Emergency On-Farm Support Fund that supports employers who provide accommodations to upgrade and improve living quarters to ensure workers are safe and healthy.
The government has made improvements to the temporary foreign worker tip line, with the addition of live agents able to offer services in multiple languages. Since launching the enhanced tip line in March, more than 400 callers have been assisted in submitting their report of abuse, referred to other appropriate departments, or had general questions about their rights in Canada answered, according to the government.
In Budget 2021, the government invested $49.5 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to support community-based organizations in the provision of migrant worker-centric programs and services, such as on-arrival orientation services and assistance in emergency and at-risk situations, through the new Migrant Worker Support Program.