Proposed regulations would ease impact of abuse on migrant workers

  • February 25, 2019

There is a gap in the regulatory scheme surrounding migrant workers, which focus on enforcement and compliance but offer little in the way of relief for those subject to abuse on the job.

The CBA’s Immigration Law Section welcomes the introduction of regulations aimed at alleviating the impact of abuse on migrant workers, by facilitating open work permits for them and their family members.

It first notes, however, that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada already has the authority to issue open work permits to migrant workers suffering abuse – but they rarely exercise that discretion when it comes to workers seeking to escape employer abuse or unsafe working conditions.

“We hope that the new Regulations send a clear message in support of assisting migrant workers in this situation,” the Section says.

It offers a few recommendations for improving the proposed regulations, including:

  • Clearly defining abuse to include not just physical, sexual or financial abuse, but to reflect the legislative intent of the regulations – “to remove disincentives for those on employer-specific work permits from reporting mistreatment, to encourage reports against non-compliant employers and to enable affected workers to find alternate employment as quickly as possible.” This broad reading would capture situations where the actions may fall short of the definition of abuse, but give rise to the same rationale for relief, such as routinely underpaid or unpaid work, inordinate hours of work or unsanitary living quarters.
  • Developing clear guidelines to ensure the regulations are applied compassionately and flexibly. For example, officers should be cautioned that a worker’s failure to report abuse, or reluctance to assist the CBSA with an investigation, shouldn’t undermine their credibility in the face of other evidence.
  • Allowing people who have already left an abusive situation to apply for a work permit under this regulation.
  • Issuing initial permits for a minimum of eight months, and extending or issuing longer permits in appropriate circumstances.
  • Considering setting up a not-for-profit agency or network of agencies to administer the program.
[0] Comments

CBA members may sign in to comment.