Government of Canada Releases ‘What We Heard’ Report on Temporary Foreign Worker Accommodations
December 1, 2021 Gatineau, Quebec Employment and Social Development Canada
Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) are entitled to the same workplace conditions and rights as Canadians and their health and safety is a major priority for the Government of Canada.
The Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough today released a ‘What We Heard Report’ summarizing feedback from consultations on employer-provided accommodations in the agriculture sector to help guide further improvements to the TFW Program.
Canada’s provinces and territories generally have exclusive jurisdiction over the development of accommodation-related rules and regulations, including housing standards. In some cases, this responsibility is delegated further to municipalities. This makes it challenging to ensure that employer-provided housing conditions for temporary foreign workers are consistent across the country. While the vast majority of employers take the health and safety of their temporary foreign workers seriously, there have been instances where workers were found to be living in unacceptable conditions.
While stakeholder views differed on the adequacy and practicality of proposed accommodation requirements for employers in primary agriculture, some key themes emerged:
- Give further consideration to provincial/territorial and local jurisdiction;
- Recognize different styles of accommodations and rural settings;
- Establish ratios (e.g. on the occupancy and use of sleeping quarters, living spaces, washrooms, and kitchen and laundry facilities) that are consistent and evidence-based; and
- Be the same for seasonal and year-round workers where possible.
Stakeholders also called for improvements to the federal inspections regime, and for the federal government to help address the financial implications of new requirements.
In response to the findings, the Government of Canada will begin developing in 2022, in consultation with provinces, territories and key stakeholders, proposed program changes focused on addressing the most pressing health and safety concerns related to temporary foreign worker accommodations. These will require that employers providing accommodations demonstrate explicit proof of compliance in their housing inspection reports to Employment and Social Development Canada against key accommodations and housing standards already in place in their province, territory, or community. Work to implement these changes will be done in close collaboration with other jurisdictions to ensure temporary foreign workers – including those working hard to support the agricultural sector and secure Canada’s food supply chains – have safe and healthy accommodations.
These program changes will build on a separate set of proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations that were pre-published in the Canada Gazette in 2021. Taken together, the proposed program changes will aim to prevent bad actors from participating in the program, strengthen the Government of Canada’s ability to effectively conduct inspections and apply penalties for non-compliance, and protect vulnerable temporary foreign workers.
“This report will help shape proposed changes to the TFW Program in 2022 to better protect workers from unsafe and unsuitable employer-provided living conditions, and ensure their rights are protected. It will also help create clear and consistent requirements for employers that apply to the Program so that they fully understand their obligations and can better adhere to them.”
– Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough
“We know the vast majority of agricultural producers are good employers and we are working to recognize the trusted among them. At the same time, we cannot ignore the poor treatment experienced by some foreign workers and we have a duty to strengthen housing standards and inspections. By working together, we will address the labour shortage, while ensuring the wellbeing of foreign workers."
– Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Marie-Claude Bibeau
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) held consultations on Minimum Requirements for Employer-Provided Accommodations from October 27 – December 20, 2020 through the following:
- Consulting with Canadians website - Solicitation for written feedback on a list of proposed requirements drafted by the Government of Canada, and available in six languages;
- Teleconferences – ten of these were held in November 2020 with key stakeholder groups; and,
- The TFW Housing Survey – launched on November 2, 2020 to solicit input from employers participating in the Primary Agriculture Stream of the TFW Program.
Approximately 150 written submissions were received from a broad cross-section of stakeholders, including provincial/territorial governments, municipalities, fire chiefs, public health units, employers, industry associations, unions/labour groups and foreign governments. The views of approximately 675 migrant workers were represented in submissions made by migrant worker support organizations (MWSOs).
From April 2, 2020 through November 29, 2021, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) inspectors for the TFW Program issued approximately $2.1 million in fines to 278 employers found to be non-compliant with the Program. Nineteen employers were also banned from the Program (of which two were banned permanently) during this time period.
Interested parties will have the opportunity to provide further feedback prior to implementation of changes related to new accommodation requirements. Additionally, a new ministerial roundtable, also to be launched in 2022, will bring together stakeholders to solicit ongoing input on how to make the Program stronger and more effective for workers, employers and their communities.
Approximately 50,000 to 60,000 foreign agricultural workers come to work in Canada each year, which accounts for more than 60% of all foreign workers entering Canada under the TFW Program.
- Temporary Foreign Worker Program: Mandatory Requirements for Employer-Provided Accommodations
- Quarantine, testing and other COVID-19 measures for temporary foreign workers and employers
- Keeping Canadians and workers in the food supply chain safe
- Reporting abuse or misuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
- 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
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: