Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

April 15, 2015 14:35 ET

Ontario Misses the Mark on Migrant Workers

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change urges full labour rights and social entitlements for low-waged immigrants on work authorization permits.

Deputation by the Migrant Worker Alliance for Change at the Standing Committee on Justice Policy of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on April 16, 2015 at 9:50 am.

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - April 15, 2015) - The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) is disappointed that the Ontario Immigration Act, the signature legislation on immigration policy in the province excludes migrant workers.

The legislation to be debated at the Standing Committee on Justice Policy on April 16, 2015, only applies to 2,500 candidates in the Provincial Nomination Program (PNP). MWAC is urging the Province to use this opportunity to develop comprehensive reforms around labour, housing, healthcare, and other social entitlements laws and regulations, in particular laws related to protecting workers against recruiters and recruitment fees.

"Migrant workers are the life-blood of Ontario," says Syed Hussan from the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. "They grow the food, they take care of children, they work in factories, and they help our friends. They live here, they should have the same rights as everyone else. It seems strange to us that Ontario is debating an immigration law that does not include migrant workers."

Just in 2013, 91,697 members of the Ontario labour force possessed work permits (39,526 in the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and 52,171 on the International Mobility Program). In addition, many of the 84,804 international students in the province, and thousands of refugee claimants were also on work permits; while an estimated 200,000 workers in the province have no immigration status. Many Ontario laws exclude these workers from basic entitlements and social protections.

Chris Ramsaroop from Justice for Migrant Workers, member organization of MWAC, says that recruiter regulation should be a priority. "The Immigration Act gives Ontario powers to enact regulations to end recruiter abuse but these powers are vague, and they exclude migrant workers who are the people that face the most recruiter abuse in the first place. The current system relies on complaints and not proactive enforcement. For there to be meaningful protections, Ontario must follow provinces like Manitoba and implement employer and recruiter registration, licensing and regulation including joint and several financial liability."

Many migrant workers pay thousands of dollars in fees to come work in Canada. To do so, entire families go into debt. When migrant workers arrive in Canada with this debt over their heads, they are even more fearful of asserting their rights which could mean losing their jobs and their ability to live in Canada. Ontario currently does not license recruiters.

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