Canada’s immigration strategy has been called a “missed opportunity” to “comprehensively address human trafficking and exploitation of newcomers, international students and migrant workers.”
The strategy in question, titled “An Immigration System for Canada’s Future: A plan to get us there,” is aimed at enhancing the management of the country’s immigration system, reported the Financial Post.
Over the course of last year, the Centre and Covenant House Vancouver worked closely to identify the gaps and challenges with Canada’s immigration system, and praised the Government of Canada’s inclusion of many “actions” that closely align with their research (see below) and labor trafficking and international students policy briefs.
Referring to these measures as “urgent,” the two bodies called on Ottawa to implement them without delay. Herein, they asked that the government work with human trafficking survivors, front-line service agencies, provinces and municipalities to ensure “effective and efficient implementation” of the strategy’s various action proposals.
The Post, however, highlighted the two-fold nature of the new strategy. While it is a “positive step forward,” the Centre and Covenant House Vancouver expressed their “profound disappointment” in the exclusion of critical actions such as Open Work Permits, family reunification, and a pathway to permanent residency for low-wage migrant workers.
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Measures of the like are essential in the protection of temporary foreign workers from abuse and reducing their isolation and family separation.
The Centre and Covenant House Vancouver asserted the creation of a “permanent under-class” of workers in Canada, and urged the federal government to create a system grounded in superior equitability, fairness, and human-rights prioritization.
“We call for the immediate implementation of Open Work Permits, support for family reunification, and the establishment of a clear pathway to permanent residency,” read the Financial Post.
“These measures are not only necessary but also aligned with our commitment to ensuring a just and inclusive society for all.”
About the Centre and Covenant House Vancouver
The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking is a national charity aimed at putting an end to all forms of human trafficking in Canada, for which it works with stakeholders and organizations such as non-profits, corporations, governments and survivors/victims of human trafficking.
Covenant House Vancouver, on the other hand, is an organization mandated to support youth aged 16-24 who are homeless and/or at risk of homelessness. Its “carefully designed Continuum of Care includes street outreach, a drop-in centre, (its) residential support programs including (its) Crisis Programs and Foundations Program, and (its) supportive, transitional housing program, Rights of Passage (ROP).”
The Centre’s Research Report on Labor Exploitation Among Migrant Workers During the Pandemic
The research being referred to in the Centre’s statement on Ottawa’s new immigration strategy is titled “It Happens Here,” and deals with the arising chance of migrant labor abuse as the country becomes more dependent on foreign workers to fill critical labor shortages.
Conducted by FCJ Refugee Centre, the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, and Legal Assistance of Windsor, the report focusses specifically on issues such as employer discrimination, unsafe working conditions, and migrants’ limited understanding of their rights during the pandemic period.
The following recommendations were proposed by the report to different government levels:
- The federal government should issue Open Work Permits to all migrant workers in Canada, regardless of their occupation or nationality
- The federal government should update Canada’s immigration legislation to provide a pathway to citizenship for low-wage migrant workers in all sectors, including seasonal workers. Information on available pathways should be shared with migrant workers before, during, and after their arrival in Canada.
- The federal government should ensure migrant workers have greater access to information on their labour rights before, during, and after their arrival in Canada.
- The federal and provincial governments, in coordination with service providers, should launch campaigns to raise awareness about labour trafficking.
- The federal government should expedite the process to relocate migrant workers’ families to Canada; Ottawa should also examine how to make this opportunity available to younger families.
- Provincial and municipal governments should work with community organizations to fund more on-site services, including healthcare, labour rights education, language training, and social activities.
On top of this, the Centre submitted policy briefs intended to put human trafficking survivors on the priority list for Canada’s public policy discussions.
“Our recommendations were informed through engagement with stakeholders across the country, including survivors, service providers, academics, and various levels of government,” read the Centre website.
“Together, the briefs offer practical solutions to prevent trafficking, support victims/survivors, inform Canadians, and hold traffickers to account.”