Our work is focused on five key areas and is guided by the following principles:
- The right to live with one’s partner and/or children is a fundamental human right.
- The right to resign and freely change employers is a fundamental human right.
- Everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law, regardless of type of occupation, country of origin, or immigration status.
- The state prevention of (im)migrant workers’ employer debt bondage is necessary for their capacity to exercise of rights in Canada.
- Permanent legal status is necessary for workers to access and assert their rights – in particular their fundamental right to access to justice in Canada.
Right to Family Unity
Most household and farm workers under foreign worker status are excluded from the program of work/study permit for spouse/children. As a result, despite their right to reside and work in the country, they are negated the fondamental right to family unity.
State-imposed family separation has a devastating impact on workers’ fundamental right to psychological integrity and consequently on their capacity to exercise rights and access to justice in Canada.
All foreign worker admission programs must allow for families to remain intact to respect fundamental rights.
Right to Change Employers
Through one or many employer-tying measures, the government restricts the right to change employers for most household and agricultural workers under foreign worker status. If the relationship with the specific employer-sponsor ends, the right to earn a living – and possibly to reside – in Canada is immediately revoked.
It becomes nearly impossible to leave abusive or unsafe working conditions. Thus, employer-tying measures restrict workers’ fondamental right to resign and, more generally, their capacity to exercise rights in Canada.
For employer-tied household and farm workers, the right to earn a living in the country is dependant upon the will of a specific employer. The power imbalance in favor of the employer, typical of labour relations, is exacerbated within these unfree (im)migrant labour supply and employment schemes, which have roots dating back centuries.
Employer-tying measures infringe on fundamental rights through the restriction of workers’ capacity to resign, and are unjustifiable ion the modern labour system. They particularly infringe on liberty, security of person, and access to justice. They must be declared unconstitutional and inapplicable in a free and democratic society.
Equal Protection Under the Law
All workers, regardless of occupation, country of origin, or immigration status, deserve equal protection under the law. Provincial and federal labour laws and regulations are the baseline for ensuring decent working conditions.
The explicit or de facto exclusion of certain workers from 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 and from the right to join a labour union.
Right not to be Held in Debt Bondage
Wage theft and other financial abuses committed by employers and their private recruiters and placement agents, both abroad and within Canada, is common for (im)migrant workers – in particular for individuals employed under foreign worker status in the domestic services and agricultural sector.
Abusive or criminal financial practices of recruitment, placement and employment increase workers’ risks of ending up in a condition of debt bondage, restricting their capacity to resign, leave abusive or unsafe work arrangements, and exercise their rights.
Unscrupulous agents and employers’ financial practices further exacerbate the vulnerability of migrant workers to additional non-financial abuse and to human trafficking.
(a) By providing unbiased international recruitment and placement services to workers – at no cost or possibly associated with state-run micro-credit programs, (b) by jointly enforcing regimes regulating, monitoring, and holding jointly accountable employers and third-party labour brokers, and (c) by funding unbiased community integration and support services, the Canadian government, in collaboration with States of countries of origin, must actively prevent (im)migrant workers’ debt bondage – in order to seriously address and efficiently minimise these systemic debt bondage-related human right risks.
Right to Access to Justice – Independent Access to Permanent Status Upon Arrival
Most household and agricultural workers admitted in Canada under temporary foreign worker status are denied access to permanent legal status, even though many of them have been working in the country for decades.
Temporary immigration status undermines workers’ capacity to exercise their rights. In particular, when they experience a violation of rights, a temporary legal status makes it very difficult if not impossible to seek out and pursue a legal recourse until the reaching of reparation and justice.
The state of legal temporariness – a multi-fold high-level of uncertainty and precarity – has been demonstrated to have a negative impact on (im)migrant workers’ physical, psychological, financial, and social well-being.
This being said, employer-dependant paths to permanent legal status also exacerbate the power imbalance in favor of the employer. Such employer-based immigration sponsorship schemes discourages workers from leaving abusive or unsafe working conditions, restricting their capacity to resign, exercise rights and access to justice.
In addition, employer-dependant access to permanent status dramatically increases the risk that a worker becomes undocumented and lose the right to permanency because of conditions outside their control such as employer or immigration consultant’s fraud or negligence.
No matter their skills levels, work experience, or type of intended occupation, all workers coming to Canada – including those who intend to work as household or farm worker – must be able to independently access permanent status upon arrival, if they wish to do so.
Association for the Rights of Household and Farm Workers (RHFW)
1340 St Joseph Blvd E,