Our work is focused on five key areas and is guided by the following principles:
- The right to freely change employers and seek alternative employment is a fundamental human right.
- Families should be able to stay together.
- No one should pay for a job.
- Ensuring fair and decent working conditions requires proactive and effective regulation of recruitment and placement services.
- Everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law, regardless of occupation or immigration status.
- Permanent immigration status is necessary for workers to access and assert their rights.
Many temporary foreign workers are not provided work permits for their partner or study permits for their children. As a result, they are unable to be accompanied by their family when they come to Canada. Years of separation have devastating impacts on both the mental and emotional health of the workers and that of their family members. All immigration programs should allow for families to remain intact. This is essential for workers’ fundamental right to psychological integrity.
Right to Change Employers
The right to freely change employers and seek alternative employment is a fundamental human right. Many domestic and agricultural workers in Canada are unable to exercise this right.
A significant number of people working in the Canadian agricultural and domestic work sectors are temporary foreign workers. Through a combination of immigration regulations and guidelines, the government prevents a majority of these workers from changing employers. For these workers, their right to earn a living in Canada is dependent on a single employer. It becomes nearly impossible to leave abusive or unsafe working conditions. The flagrant power imbalance, already characteristic of any labour relation, is thus exacerbated by this system, which has roots dating back centuries. This results, unsurprisingly, in well-documented violations of fundamental human rights.
Equal Protection Under the Law
All workers, regardless of occupation or immigration status, deserve equal protection under the law.
Minimal labour standards, set out in provincial and federal labour laws and regulations, are the baseline for ensuring decent and humane working conditions. The exclusion of certain workers from certain basic labour protections, based on their occupation and/or immigration status, falls within a historical system of discrimination. This includes but is not limited to the exclusion of part-time domestic workers from legal protection for work accidents or professional injuries and the exclusion of farmworkers in Quebec from the right to overtime pay.
Fair and Regulated Recruitment
Fraud committed by private recruitment and placement agencies, both abroad and within Canada, greatly contributes to the abuse and exploitation experienced by temporary foreign workers in all sectors, especially for those employed in the agricultural and domestic work sectors. Abusive recruitment practices also significantly contribute to the increased risk of debt bondage and labour trafficking. Federal and provincial governments must provide free, unbiased, and direct international recruitment and placement services, as well as create effective regimes to regulate, monitor, and hold accountable all third-party labour brokers.
Independent Access to Permanent Residency
Temporary immigration status undermines workers’ capacity to exercise their rights. In particular, it makes it very difficult for them to seek legal recourse when their rights are violated. Substantive equality requires that all workers coming to Canada be able to independently access permanent residence status.
For many temporary foreign workers, their access to permanent residence status depends on the goodwill of the employer. This exacerbates the power imbalance between employee and employer, already characteristic of all labour relations. Employer-based sponsorship discourages workers from leaving abusive or unsafe working conditions. It also comes with the risk that a worker becomes undocumented for reasons outside their control.
Many other temporary foreign workers, such as agricultural and domestic workers in Quebec, are completely denied access to permanent residence status, even though many of them have been working in Canada for decades. This leaves them in a state of permanent temporariness – a multi-fold high-level of precarity associated with negative impacts on physical, psychological, financial, and social well-being.
These individuals make great contributions to the Canadian economy. All workers deserve full and permanent immigration status, regardless of their occupation.
Association for the Rights of Household and Farm Workers (RHFW)
1340 St Joseph Blvd E,