Government of Canada proposes new regulations to improve protection of temporary foreign workers
July 26, 2021 Gatineau, Quebec Employment and Social Development Canada
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for further action by the Government of Canada and its partners to improve the protection of temporary foreign workers. Year after year, these workers come to Canada to support our agriculture and agri-food industry and contribute greatly to Canada’s food security. Their hard work and expertise has been instrumental over the years and especially during the pandemic, and they deserve to be safe.
Today, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marco Mendicino, announced proposed new regulations to help prevent the mistreatment or abuse of temporary foreign workers during their stay in Canada. They outlined 14 regulatory amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Temporary Foreign Workers), with three key objectives:
- Improving protections for temporary foreign workers by mandating employers to provide temporary foreign workers with information about their rights in Canada; prohibiting reprisal by employers against workers who come forward with complaints; and, putting into regulation key requirements for all employers to provide reasonable access to health-care services, and for employers to provide health insurance when needed. The proposed changes would also prohibit the charging of recruitment fees to workers, and hold employers accountable for the actions of recruiters in this regard.
- Improving the Government’s ability to prevent bad actors from participating in the program by providing authorities that will strengthen the assessment of applications from new employers and deferring the processing of a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) if non-compliance is suspected.
- Strengthening the Government’s ability to effectively conduct inspections. This includes reducing the prescribed timelines and involving third parties (e.g., banks and payroll companies) to provide documents to support inspections.
In addition to today’s announcement, the Government of Canada has launched new features on Job Bank that enable temporary foreign workers to search for jobs from eligible employers. These features will help workers, and the migrant worker organizations that support them, connect with employers through a trusted source.
The pandemic has further highlighted the need to better identify misuse of the program that puts workers in vulnerable situations and to better support workers seeking help. As part of the Government’s strengthened efforts to better support employers and workers for the 2021 season, new data capabilities leveraging payroll data are being deployed to better identify cases of fraud and misrepresentation, and improvements were made to the temporary foreign worker tip line, with the addition of live agents able to offer services in multiple languages. Since launching the enhanced tip line in March, more than 400 callers have been assisted in submitting their report of abuse, referred to other appropriate departments, or had general questions about their rights in Canada answered.
These changes complement other federal government actions introduced this year to better support temporary foreign workers. Budget 2021 announced $49.5 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to support community-based organizations in the provision of migrant worker-centric programs and services, such as on-arrival orientation services and assistance in emergency and at-risk situations, through the new Migrant Worker Support Program. Budget 2021 also announced $54.9 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to increase inspections of employers and ensure temporary foreign workers have appropriate working conditions and wages. Additionally, the Government launched a $35-million Emergency On-Farm Support Fund that supports employers who provide accommodations to upgrade and improve living quarters to ensure workers are safe and healthy.
“The health and safety of temporary foreign workers continues to be a key priority for the Government of Canada. While we have made progress, there continues to be gaps. We know that temporary foreign workers need better information about their rights, and better health and safety protections. Workers also need to be protected from reprisal if they come forward with a complaint, and bad actors need to be prevented from participating in the program. Through these enhanced regulatory amendments, the Government is working towards providing stronger worker protection and ensuring greater employer compliance.”
- Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough
“The Government of Canada takes the safety and dignity of foreign workers very seriously. Everyone deserves a work environment where they are safe and their rights are respected. These amendments will help us further improve worker protection and strengthen our ability to ensure employers follow the rules governing both the International Mobility Program and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.”
- Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marco E. L. Mendicino
The proposed regulations were pre-published on July 10, 2021 in the Canada Gazette Part 1. Canadians, employers and stakeholders were invited to provide comments within 30 days.
Approximately 50,000 to 60,000 foreign agricultural workers come to work in Canada each year, which accounts for around 60% of all workers who may enter Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Over 41,000 workers have arrived to date in 2021.
The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) is the stream most commonly used by agricultural producers. In 2019, approximately 30,500 work permits were issued under the SAWP, of which 9,100 (0r 30%) arrived from participating Caribbean countries. The remaining 70% were from Mexico.
In 2020, most foreign workers who work on farms were located in Ontario (43%), Quebec (30%) and British Columbia (18%).
A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is a document that an employer in Canada may need to get before hiring a foreign worker through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). A positive LMIA will show that there is a need for a temporary foreign worker to fill the job. It will also show that no Canadian worker or permanent resident is available to do the job. Migrant workers in Canada on employer-specific work permits who are experiencing abuse, or who are at risk of abuse, in the context of their employment in Canada may be eligible to receive an open work permit that is exempt from the LMIA process. More information can be found here.
On March 16, 2021, Service Canada introduced live agent support to its pre-existing tip line to assist temporary foreign workers in reporting abuse to the Department, offering services in English, French, Spanish and more than 200 other languages. Prior to the introduction of the live agents, the service existed as only voicemail where the caller will leave a message in either English or French. Callers who call the tip line during hours of operation but who do not speak either English or French will speak with a live Service Canada agent and a qualified interpreter, who will be on the call to provide real-time, accurate interpretation in the caller’s language of choice.
- Government announces comprehensive plan to better protect foreign workers in order to secure Canada’s food supply chain
- Backgrounder: Temporary Foreign Worker Program: Mandatory Requirements for Employer-Provided Accommodations
- Frequently asked questions: Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker program regarding COVID-19
- Reporting abuse or misuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker program
- Keeping Canadians and workers in the food supply chain safe
- Support for Canada’s food supply system
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
For media enquiries, please contact:
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough
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