Legal Advocacy

Our Constitutional Challenge

A significant number of household and farmworkers in Canada are temporary foreign workers. Through this legal status, the federal government deprives these individuals of their right to change employers.

The legal restrictions on obtaining alternative employment mean workers are extremely reluctant to do anything that might jeopardize their job. It produces a major shift in the balance of power between employers and workers, in the favor of the employer.

The RHFW’s legal committee is working on bringing a constitutional challenge to these policies on the basis that they violate section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and cannot be justified in a free and democratic society.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

Section 7
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The widespread and systematic abuse and mistreatment of these workers in Canada have been extensively documented and well-established. Human rights tribunals, labour boards, courts, and parliamentary committees have all recognized the legal restrictions imposed on migrant workers’ right to change employers are a central factor driving their vulnerability to abuse.

Despite overwhelming evidence that these policies directly contribute to the restriction of workers’ fundamental rights to liberty, security of person, and access to justice in the country, the Canadian government has failed to reform immigration law in order to allow these workers to change jobs freely. 

Until the government abandons the use of such policies, workers will continue to be trapped in employment arrangements that constitute involuntary servitude – where they commonly experience health and safety standards violations; psychological, physical and sexual harassment and assault; restrictions to their physical liberty and other factors associated with conditions of human trafficking and debt bondage.

Read our report on how Canadian labour migration programs are incompatible with fundamental rights and freedoms: Migrant Care and Farm Workers, Canadian Law, and Unfree Labour (2018)

Association for the Rights of Household and Farm Workers (RHFW)

1340 St Joseph Blvd E,
Montréal, Québec
H2J 1M3