Abuse of migrant workers ‘endemic’ in Canada, new study says
Nicholas Keung – Toronto Star
The moment Liliane arrived in Toronto from Uganda as a live-in caregiver, her boss seized her work permit and passport. For two years of work, she was only paid a total of $2,100.
Senthil Thevar was promised $15 an hour by a recruiter in India to work as a chef in a Toronto restaurant. Instead, he only earned $8 hourly, sharing accommodation in a cold basement, with no vacation and holidays.
On paper, Tanzanian taxidermist Juma was supposed to make $16.08 an hour to make animal specimens in Canada. His boss wrote him a $3,168 paycheque each month, but Juma must immediately withdraw the money and pay it back as “my taxes.”
It might seem these migrant workers just happened to be struck by bad luck — and unscrupulous employers. But a new report released Monday by the Metcalf Foundation says Canada’s current immigration and labour laws virtually doom temporary migrant workers to mistreatment.
“The exploitation is not isolated and anecdotal. It is endemic. It is systemic,” the report says.
“The depths of the violations are degrading. There is a deepening concern that Canada’s temporary labour migration programs are entrenching and normalizing a low-wage, low-rights ‘guest’ workforce.”
Migrant workers in Canada have tripled in the past decade, to 300,111 in 2011 — about one-third of them in low-skilled jobs, according to the report titled “Made in Canada: How the Law Constructs Migrant Workers’ Insecurity.”
While stories of migrant worker abuse are not new, the study by Osgoode Hall Law School professor Fay Faraday examined the legislative and regulatory practices to get to the root causes of the issues faced by migrant workers like Liliane and Juma, who are profiled but not fully identified in the report. Thevar, who was also profiled in the report, has spoken to the Star previously and has agreed to be identified by his last name.
“This is the road map for understanding how these workers’ insecurity is built by law. The law doesn’t only create vulnerability but it fails to address exploitation and allows it to flourish,” said Faraday, who specializes in constitutional law, human rights and labour issues.
Canada has several programs to bring in low-skilled temporary migrant workers: live-in caregivers, seasonal farm workers and a 10-year-old pilot project that lets in workers in diverse sectors such as agriculture, restaurants, food processing, cleaning, construction, road building and tourism.