THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The federal government of Canada lately amended the Immigration and Refugee Safety Laws to incorporate new employer obligations. These amendments are supposed to reinforce protections for migrant employees and make sure the integrity of the federal government’s non permanent overseas employee program.
Whereas a step in the precise route, the adjustments side-step the basis points that make non permanent overseas employees weak to abuse within the first place.
Greater than 61,000 migrant employees had been employed in Canada’s agriculture sector in 2021, a rise of just about 12 per cent from 2020, marking the best proliferation since 2016.
In reality, migrant employees comprised almost one-quarter of all agricultural employees in 2021.
Migrant agricultural employees are uncovered to numerous bodily and psychosocial well being dangers which can be compounded by the precarious circumstances they face in Canada.
Our analysis reveals that the circumstances of employment beneath Canada’s non permanent overseas employee program generate important challenges to employees’ well being, the safety of their rights and even their survival.
Repatriated if injured, sick
Employees are employed on non permanent contracts that bind them to a single employer, and these contracts embody a repatriation clause that enables employers to terminate and deport employees and not using a grievance course of. Injured and sick employees are sometimes repatriated earlier than they’ll entry well being care and/or employees’ compensation.
Consequently, migrant employees are sometimes unable to refuse unsafe work and are reluctant to lift well being issues or report conditions of abuse.
Whereas acknowledging a few of the points dealing with migrant employees in Canada, the amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Safety Laws fail to handle the facility imbalances on the coronary heart of the non permanent overseas employee program. In reality, they threat additional cementing a few of these systemic issues.
Employers as well being mediators
First, the federal authorities continues to entrench the position of the employer as an off-the-cuff mediator of fundamental well being look after employees.
Migrant employees in Ontario are eligible for provincial well being care, however they expertise many boundaries to accessing such providers, partially due to a reliance on employers.
Below the brand new amendments, the federal government of Canada as soon as once more normalizes this position. Employers are obligated to cowl the ready interval earlier than provincial well being care eligibility by offering non-public medical insurance to migrant employees upon arrival.
By imbuing the duty of “cheap entry to well being care providers” to employers when a employee is injured or turns into ailing on the office, the federal government is wilfully denying the facility imbalance and apparent battle of curiosity posed by such an association.
Contemplate, for instance, the historical past of medical repatriations confronted by this workforce, during which injured and sick employees are prematurely deported. At minimal, employees want impartial entry to well being care that’s unmediated by employers.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Second, the chance of labour abuses and exploitation are addressed solely by means of paperwork, and once more, delegated to employers.
For instance, the brand new amendments require all employers to offer migrant employees with an employment settlement on or earlier than the primary day of labor, and they’re to be drafted in English or French.
The agreements should match the preliminary supply of employment and embody details about the job supply, wages, together with additional time pay, and dealing circumstances. Many migrant employees don’t learn English or French. Our analysis has additionally proven that employees’ rights on paper are nearly by no means acknowledged in observe.
Subsequently, there isn’t a substitute for significant oversight and regulation.
Extra promisingly, the definition of “abuse” beneath the brand new amendments has been up to date to incorporate “reprisal.”
We assist this definition, as we’ve got beforehand advocated for this and different actions to handle employees’ threat of reprisal.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Weak employee allow
As has been the case since 2019, if a employee can show they’re being abused, they could have entry to an Open Work Allow for Weak Employees.
Nevertheless, that let is an ineffective mechanism to report office abuse as a result of it locations the burden of proof on the employee. What’s extra, it doesn’t assure future re-employment by way of the non permanent overseas employee program, nor does it present employees with the housing or assist they require to seek out new employment.
To significantly respect the rights of migrant employees, Canada wants to rework the construction of the non permanent overseas employee program to curtail the facility and impunity of employers and embed rights and protections for employees.
This will solely be completed by offering really structural adjustments, akin to open work permits and everlasting standing — measures lengthy known as for by migrant employees and their allies.
To do any much less is merely making beauty adjustments to a basically flawed system.
Stephanie Mayell receives funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Analysis Council (SSHRC). She is affiliated with the Migrant Employee Well being Venture, and the Migrant Employee Well being Knowledgeable Working Group (MWHEWG).
C. Susana Caxaj receives funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Analysis Council (SSHRC). She is affiliated with the Migrant Employee Well being Knowledgeable Working Group
Janet McLaughlin receives funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Analysis Council (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Well being Analysis (CIHR). She is affiliated with the Migrant Employee Well being Venture and the Migrant Employee Well being Knowledgeable Working Group (MWHEWG).