Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Temporary to Permanent?

Employment Minister Jason Kenney, left, and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander are seen in a reflection at a news conference in Ottawa on Friday, June 20, 2014 on reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you;
you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:
I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:34

The federal government has implemented new regulations and restrictions for the temporary foreign workers program across Canada. The program has allowed workers from other countries to enter Canada to do specific jobs and essentially without the prospect of staying should the job come to an end. Usually those jobs have been what we might call "low end" in terms of compensation and have often involved the sort of work which does not appeal to those who are Canadian citizens.

Over the past few months we have heard allegations of abuse of this system. Canadians who have wanted to work, or actually were employed by companies, felt snubbed or pushed out because the foreign workers were willing to accept sub-standard conditions or lower wages. Some of the workers have complained they were treated like indentured servants rather than employees who are supposedly protected by labour laws. When the feds shut down the program in some areas employers felt they had been left high and dry, and so did their foreign workers. In other words, the whole system was a mess. We now know that despite the government claiming that awareness of these problems is new to them, in fact complaints go back to 2006.

This is another example of the ongoing difficulties of temporary and seasonal workers in Canada. We don't do this well, and probably never have, under any government. Human and immigrant rights advocates, including those from religious groups, remind us that the healthiest system would allow for the possibility of workers becoming landed immigrants and eventually citizens. With the proverbial "sword of Damocles" dangling above their heads abuses, even by the relatively few, are possible.

It is a biblical principle that the vulnerable "alien" be treated with the same dignity and respect as those who are citizens. We need people in Canada who will do work which is often physically taxing or less appealing. People born here are often reluctant to take that work on. This employment provides opportunity for those who come from less prosperous backgrounds. Why should they be penalized or mistreated for doing work many of us don't want to do? Unions in BC feel that these workers should be allowed citizenship.

Have you followed this situation? Do you think laws need to be changed so that the "alien" workers we allow in have the possibility to become citizens?


Frank said...

My understanding is that this program was initially set up to accomplish one main aim:
1) To supply high seasonal demand for labour in the agricultural sector during harvest periods, when such labour demand was not being filled domestically.

Those workers were transported here and back to there homes, and took their earnings with them to enhance their family incomes.

I don't think that it was meant to satisfy the ongoing, non-seasonal needs for low paying service sector labour. Nor was it intended to provide an alternate pathway to prevailing immigration procedures, to come to and settle in Canada.

So, now there is a mess to clean up because a number of people coming into Canada have been victimized by unscrupulous immigration agents' misuse of a program designed for a different purpose.

I think that we have to do our best to honour those who have been lured here under false premises, abusers need to be prosecuted, extra monitoring of this program needs to be maintained, and our overall immigration policy needs review and updating to reflect current world realities.

David Mundy said...

Very well said Frank. Would you consider running for federal office in your spare time? I would vote for you!