March 21, 2016, International Day for the Elimination of Racism — Today, 25 member organizations of the Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada in six provinces, are jointly releasing an open letter on the upcoming Temporary Foreign Workers Review. The letter, also endorsed by dozens of national, provincial and local human rights, labour and immigration rights organizations, calls on Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, MaryAnn Mihychuk and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum to ensure permanent resident status on arrival for migrant workers. Our Open Letter outlines a review process that must centre migrant worker human rights and dignity, leads to comprehensive reforms for Seasonal Agricultural Workers, Caregivers and Temporary Foreign Workers, and corrects historical exclusions faced by migrant workers. Please read the open letter below and add your organization’s name to endorse.
The Honourable MaryAnn Mihychuk, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour
The Honourable John McCallum, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
The Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada (CMWRC), the representative body of migrant workers in the country, is responding to reports of a Temporary Foreign Workers Review by re-issuing our calls for an end to the discriminatory practice of tying migrant workers to specific employers and transition towards permanent immigration status upon arrival for all migrant workers.
With membership in six provinces, the CMWRC is a coalition of migrant worker groups from coast to coast to coast, aimed at improving work conditions for all workers. CMWRC believes that the review of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program must result in improved living and working conditions for Caregivers, Seasonal Agricultural Workers and other Temporary Foreign Workers.
Heartened by Minister Mihychuk’s comments about ensuring permanent residency status for migrant workers, CMWRC is outlining the following principles to assist the government to design its review of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. These principles are endorsed by the listed organizations.
Principles for a Review of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program
Human rights and dignity of migrant workers must guide the process
- The review must set as its goal the ensuring of permanent residency rights, family reunification, full social entitlements and labour protections for migrant workers.
- Migrant workers grow our food; take care of children, sick and the elderly and do the backbreaking work of building our economy. The review should celebrate and honour migrant worker contributions.
- Any review must reject treating migrant workers like commodities to deal with labour shortages or characterizing of migrant workers as external to the Canadian labour force and therefore impacting job opportunities of citizen or permanent resident workers.
Migrant worker voices must be at the centre
- Migrant worker representatives must have a direct say in the development of the structure, scope and timelines of the review.
- Hearings should take place across the country, at times and locations that migrant workers are able to attend and speak freely in their own languages, and with protection from employer reprisals or being targeted by immigration enforcement.
The review should be comprehensive
- All aspects of the temporary foreign workers program, including Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, the Live In Caregiver / Caregiver Program and low-waged and high-waged Temporary Foreign Workers must be considered in an evidence based framework.
- The review should include the voices and interests of migrant workers that have been forced to become undocumented as a result of restrictive immigration and labour laws.
- The voices and interests of migrant workers who have left Canada, particularly those as a result of sickness and injury should be included.
The review should be placed in historic and current immigration context
- Migrant workers have been coming to Canada since at least 1880 when Chinese ‘guest workers’ were brought into Canada to build a railroad between British Columbia and Eastern Canada. 2016 is the 50th anniversary of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. The review must aim at rectifying centuries of exclusions in previous iterations of the temporary foreign worker program.
- Migrant workers are low-waged and racialized immigrants. While many refugees, permanent residents, spouses, parents and grandparents are able to come to Canada with permanent resident immigration status, migrant workers are not. The review must coordinate closely with federal immigration policies to develop a single tier immigration system that ensures family reunification and permanent status for all.
Thank you for your kind attention to the matter.
Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada and supporting organizations.
Letter by Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada Members
- Cooper Institute in PEI
- Migrant Workers Alliance for Change*
- Migrant Worker Solidarity Network in Manitoba
- Migrante Canada
- Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture in Okanagan Valley
- Temporary Foreign Workers Association in Quebec
- Temporary Foreign Workers Coalition in Alberta
- Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregiver Rights
- West Coast Domestic Workers Association in Vancouver
*Migrant Workers Alliance for Change includes:
- Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (Toronto)
- Asian Community Aids Services (Ontario)
- Caregivers Action Centre (Ontario)
- Fuerza Puwersa (Guelph)
- Industrial Accident Victims’ Group of Ontario
- Justicia for Migrant Workers (Ontario, BC, Mexico)
- Legal Assistance of Windsor
- Migrante Ontario
- No One Is Illegal – Toronto
- Parkdale Community Legal Services
- Social Planning Toronto
- UNIFOR (Canada)
- South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
- United Food and Commercial Workers (Canada)
- Workers United (Canada)
- Workers’ Action Centre (Toronto).
Currently endorsed by (please fill out the form above and add your name!)
- AIDS Committee of Durham Region, Ontario
- Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre
- British Columbia Federation of Labour Health and Safety Centre, British Columbia
- BC Government & Service Employees’ Union
- Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network), Ontario
- Community Legal Assistance Society, British Columbia
- Caregiver Connections Education and Support Organization (CCESO)
- Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine
- Council of Canadians
- Council of Canadians, Ottawa chapter
- Council of Canadians, Montreal chapter
- Council of Canadians, Peterborough and Kawarthas
- Council of Canadians, Prince Edward Island
- Council of Canadians, Saint John Chapter
- Council of Canadians, South Niagara Chapter
- Couples for Christ Migrants Program
- CUPE Canada
- Emergency Support Committee for Refugees
- Filipino-Canadian CommUnity of NB Inc.
- Injured Workers’ Consultants Community Legal Clinic, Ontario
- Inter Pares
- Justice Across Borders Hamilton, Ontario
- Kawartha Ploughshares
- Mexicanxs Unidxs Por Regularizacion Mur
- Migrant Worker Health Project, Ontario
- Migrant Workers Dignity Association, British Columbia
- Migrante Canada – Manitoba chapter
- Migrante BC
- MoveUP, British Columbia
- Niagara Migrant Workers Interest Group, Ontario
- North Park Presbyterian Church
- Ontario Federation of Labour
- Philippine Advancement Through Arts and Culture (PATAC)
- PINAY Quebec
- PEI Food Security Network
- People’s Health Movement Canada/Mouvement populaire pour la santé au Canada
- Refugees Welcome Fredericton, New Brunswick
- Reproductive Justice NB, New Brunswick
- Students Against Migrant Exploitation Brock Chapter, Ontario
- Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape
- UNIFOR Local 468
- UNIFOR Local 707
- Waterloo Regional Labour Council
- Waterloo Region Migrant Workers Interest Group, Ontario
- West Coast LEAF, British Columbia
- Windsor Workers’ Education Centre, Ontario