Canada’s House of Commons Committee Urges Temporary Foreign Worker Program Reform

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The human resources committee of Canada’s House of Commons is recommending major changes to the temporary foreign worker program, including an end to the rule that forces workers to exit the country after four years of service.

The long-awaited report is expected to guide upcoming changes to the program that have been promised by the cabinet.

The committee released a report in September which makes 21 recommendations, including some that are aimed at responding to concerns from specific industries and others that focus on warnings that the program leaves foreign workers vulnerable to abuse.

The report recommends that the TFW should be changed to make it easier for foreign workers to become permanent residents in Canada. It pinpointed a 2011 rule change that imposed a four-year ban from the program on individual foreign workers who had been in Canada for four years should be eliminated because it makes it harder for these workers to become permanent residents.

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The same report also calls for the elimination that ties a foreign worker’s permit to one single employer, as this creates a onerous relationship that is open to abuse. Hearing from various employees under the program, the committee said that migrant workers are exposed to abuse such as verbal, physical and sexual abuse, working for no wages and being forced to work more hours or days than cited in their employment agreement.

To encourage employers to maintain a clean track record, the report calls on the government to develop a so-called “trusted employer” stream.

While many groups welcome the recommendations, Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan believes the Liberals who dominate the House of Commons misled voters by promising a review of the program “with the clear implication that the goal would be to rein in and roll back the program.”

“What we’re seeing with this report is a government intent on making it easier for employers to access guest workers from abroad. From my perspective, this is the worst kind of political bait and switch,” he said.

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A joint statement by both Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum said the government would respond to the recommendations within 120 days.

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