Creative Action at Ministry of Labour: Make ’em pay to work!

Join us as we charge Ontario Ministry of Labour employees fees to go to work. Strange? Not at all. Migrant workers have to pay thousands of dollars to work in Ontario, and its legal. If recruiters can make a quick buck off migrant workers, we can make a quick buck off the people who allow it. All you need is suit and a tie. Show up bright and early on March 22nd, around 7:30 or so in the morning.

Please fill out this form so we can send you all the details (its the shortest job application you’ll ever do):

Still unsure? Don’t worry. Recruiters aren’t licensed in Ontario, so anyone can do it! What’s even better is that recruiters can’t be held liable for what happens at work. So if these Ministry of Labour employees boss turns on them, its no skin off your back.

By our guessestimation (its pretty hard to get the facts) at least half off Ontario’s 120,000 migrant workers are paying between $3,000 and $10,000 to unscrupulous recruiters*. That’s could be as high as 1.2 billion dollars a year. Imagine how much more money could be made by the rich if we started charging the non-migrant workers too. Its an untapped opportunity and we need to take matters in to our own hands.

With few real ways to get into Canada permanently, migrants are forced to pay recruiters to come to Canada on a temporary basis. To do so, entire families get into debt. Here. they pay in to E.I., and CPP, but face insurmountable barriers . Health and safety protections are non-existent. Documents are seized and bosses are often abusive. All of this is allowed by provincial and federal laws. We won’t be treating the Ministry of Labour employees that badly.

** This is the first of many actions, if you can’t make it to this one, please sign up at to hear about future ones**

March 22nd is the three-year anniversary of the passing of the Employment Protections for Foreign National Act (Live-In Caregivers & Others) aka EPFNA. EPFNA banned recruiters fees and seizure of documents from live-in caregivers but left out seasonal agricultural workers, and those in the temporary foreign worker low skilled program. Not only that, EPFNA has not been fully implemented to adequately support live-in caregivers and requires key amendments to ensure that it actually works.

* Two-thirds of caregivers in a survey by Caregivers Action Centre who arrived after EPFNA was enforced paid fees, averaging $3275. Filipino workers that MWAC organizations come in to contact with report paying a base fees of $5,000 while Thai workers report paying a base fees of $10,000. | |

What Will the Minister of Labour Do for Migrant Workers?

Dear Mr Naqvi,

We have some things in common. I read that you came to Canada from Pakistan in your early teens. I immigrated in my early teens too, except I moved to Pakistan. My father, you see, was a migrant worker in Dubai and, after living there for decades, my family was forced to separate.

Moving to a new city, learning new ways, and making new friends must have been hard for you — it definitely was for me. In some ways we are different, since your family came here in search of safety, while my family moved because the country we lived in wanted our labour, but not us.

And that’s what I’m writing to you about. As you take up the position of Minister of Labour for Ontario, will you be thinking about all the workers here, or just the ones that hold the passport of your adopted country?

Please make sure Mr Naqvi reads this, email it to him at (more…)

Letter to Ministry of Labour

Letter to Ministry of Labour

This is our letter to Yasir Naqvi requesting overhaul of Ontario’s recruiter laws.

MoL_ActiononEPFNA_Feb2013 (1)

What is this about?

Members of our organization have documented numerous cases of migrant workers employed through other Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) who are also being forced to pay substantial fees and have reported that their passports and other property was seized by recruiters or employers. These abuses increase the precarious status these workers already face while working in Canada and place barriers for workers to speak up about Employment Standards and other labour rights violations.

Ontario should adopt a proactive system of employer registration, recruiter licensing (including the mandatory provision of an irrevocable letter of credit or deposit), mandatory filing of information about  recruitment and employment contracts, and proactive government inspection and investigation in line with the best practices adopted under Manitoba’s Worker Recruitment and Protection Act and Regulations.

The limitation period for filing complaints about improper recruitment fees should be extended to reflect the current four-year period which live-in caregivers have to complete their qualifying work to apply for permanent residence.

Migrants workers deserve benefits

Letter to the Editor, published in the Toronto Star

Re: Basic fairness for migrants, Editorial Dec. 12

Diane Finley’s cuts to EI benefits for migrant workers is a mean move. The Star says “if workers can’t get it, they shouldn’t pay for it.” That’s exactly what the scrooge Finley wants you to say. Once migrant workers are kicked out of benefits, that door to equality and fairness will be slammed shut forever.

Migrant workers and their allies are clear: we want migrant workers, in fact all workers, to have access to all benefits, not be kicked out the system. We hope the Star agrees.

“I Am Here in Canada and I Am Treated like a Dog”

First published on the Huffington Post on November 13, 2012

The Canada Border Services Agency just announced that it had deported 16,511 people in 2011-2012, dubbing it a “milestone year.”

“It is really chilling,” said Mary Foster from Montreal’s People’s Commission which successfully advocated to have Adil Charkaoui’s security certificate struck down and get Abousfian Abdelrazikback in to Canada. “It’s the moral equivalent of a mob killing someone and then jumping on their bodies in triumph.”

Deportation to death is not just an analogy. The case of Veronica Castro and Grise have made national headlines in the past years, women who were denied refugee status, were told that they were making up their refugee claims and deported. Both of them were murdered upon their return just as they feared.

These numbers, however, are only part of the forced removals story.

Every year tens of thousands of migrant workers are coerced to leave after getting hurt on the job or because their work permits are revoked or have been completed. This is euphemistically called “repatriations.”

According to government statistics, 3,709 migrant farm workers were deemed AWOL in the program between 1996 and 2011. A further 1,198 were sent home for medical reasons during that period, and 2,923 were flown back due to “breach of contract.” These are, in essence, deportations.

Winston Morrison is one such worker. In his own words:

“I was injured while working on a farm in Ontario on June 25, 2011. I had an operation on my knee on the 14th of September, 2011. They put a plate in. I was sent home to Jamaica and I went to the doctor there because something was wrong with my knee. The doctor gave me antibiotics. Then I went to another doctor and I kept telling him I wanted to go back to Canada to get treated, but my doctor wouldn’t give me a letter saying that I should go to Canada. In February, the second doctor opened my leg to see what was wrong. He said I had a tumour and I should go back to Canada to have it operated on.I got to Canada in May for a surgery and the doctor cut off my whole eg. The doctor told me that if I had been back in Canada a few months earlier, they could have saved my leg. The doctor in Canada could not tell me if my leg had a tumour or not. He cut off my leg because of the infection that I had because of the plate in my leg.

WSIB cut me off my compensation because they say that my leg was cut off because of the tumour and not because of my first injury. The Jamaican government has also cut me off benefits.

I am here in Canada and I am treated like a dog. We pay into the system, so why do we not get the same rights? I worked every day for eight months. This country gets so much from us and then they throw us under the bus. “

Though Winston was able to come back, many other workers that leave the country after being injured don’t. Most never see a penny of compensation for their workplace injuries.

Injured workers are one egregious part of the missing picture. Other migrant workers or people in other immigration streams that want to stay but leave because of the terms of their contract or permits should be counted as forced removals. Including those would significantly increase the numbers from the 16,511 that CBSA has currently announced.

“State designed immigration policies make it impossible for migrant workers to stay in Canada,” says Chris Ramsaroop from Justice for Migrant Workers, one of 13 member organizations of theMigrant Workers Alliance for Change. “There are significant amount of workers that are repatriated who want to stay in Canada. That’s part of the human face behind these partial deportation numbers.”

Canada is implementing a revolving door immigration policy, with high deportations and a shift to migrant work. It is clear to see who is paying the cost of these policies. Are we okay with this? It’s time we slow this down.


Worker Exploitation Is Not Just a Chinese Problem

First published on the Huffington Post on November 2nd, 2012

Stuck as we are in the midst of a U.S. Presidential campaign that has consistently framed China as the “boogey man,” the homogenizing outrage against the Canada-China Investment Agreement focused, it is as if China- and Chinese-bashing is all the rage right now.

If you’ve been following all the flare-up in British Columbia in the last few weeks about migrant workers from China coming to work in B.C.’s coal mines you’d think that migrant workers being charged recruitment fees is something that’s never been done before.

Even the B.C. Federation of Labour listed Chinese migrant workers being charged recruitment feesup to C$ 12,500 as the number one reason to suspend temporary work permits for the B.C. coal mine.

Fact of the matter is that charging recruitment fees is not just a “Chinese” problem; it is a home grown Canadian one.

Fay Faraday wrote recently:

“As labour migration has increased, private recruiters have emerged to facilitate the flow of workers from one country to another. Exploitation in this relationship is able to flourish precisely because of the structural and income inequalities addressed above (i.e. the actual migrant worker laws themselves that deny people immigration status) and migrant workers’ location in that power imbalance.”

Here, in Ontario, member organizations of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) like Justicia for Migrant Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the Caregivers Action Centre have repeatedly highlighted stories of migrant workers being charged enormous sums of money yet too little has been done by the provincial labour ministry.

We’ve heard of “Angela” who was charged $5,000, or the 19 workers in Windsor who typically paid between $9,000 to $ 12,000 or the workers in Regina who paid over $5,000 dollars to recruiters. These are just some of the stories that made the mainstream press — countless others never will.

In Ontario, charging recruitment fees from migrant workers is legal unless it is investigated as human trafficking which it rarely is. This needs to change.

In March of 2010, MWAC groups managed to get the Ontario Ministry of Labour to pass the Employment Protection for Foreign National Act (EPFNA). Unfortunately, the bill only covered migrant workers coming in as live-in caregivers, leaving out many other workers coming in on other programs who were also being charged recruitment fees. Many of the provisions of the bill, such as an anonymous enforcement line aren’t active. Since then, migrant workers and their allies have called on Ontario repeatedly to act to amend the EPFNA to ensure real protections for workers.

One model to consider is the Manitoba’s Worker Recruitment and Protection Act (“WRAPA”). WRAPA provides greater protection because it applies to all migrant workers, puts the onus on employers and recruiters to be accountable at the front end, and involves both federal and provincial governments in proactive oversight and enforcement. No employer can recruit a foreign worker without registering with the Ministry of Labour which includes details of the duties, location and time period of the migrant worker’s employment.

In contrast, Ontario’s recruitment protection requires no monitoring by the Ministry and no licensing of recruiters, or registration of employers. It is difficult for the Ministry to enforce the law when they have no idea where recruiters are operating, or where migrant workers are working.

As Canada shifts towards a permanent system of temporary immigration, it’s become critical to change provincial laws so that they protect migrant workers rather than employers and recruiters. The answer is not to shut down temporary work programs as some argue, it is to ensure full immigration status on landing for migrant workers. And alongside this struggle at the Federal level, we need to ensure that provincial and municipal laws and policies change so that migrant workers get access to full protections and services.

Follow Syed Hussan on Twitter:

Equal Pay for Equal Work! Call for Action. Rally against migrant worker wage cuts!

The Conservative government has given employers in Canada more rein to exploit migrants. Employers can now pay migrant workers 15% below the average wage. This is an outrage! To discriminate on wages simply on the basis of nationality is unfair. Considering that most migrant workers are people of colour, this wage cut is simply racist.

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, a community-labour alliance of over 40 organizations, will be demonstrating at MP Joe Oliver (Cabinet Minister for Toronto)’s office on May 24th.

11am, May 24, 2012
Outside MP Joe Oliver’s Office
511 Lawrence Avenue West

We are also calling for pickets and demonstrations at Conservative MP offices across Ontario on Thursday, May 24, 2012. If you can organize an action at ANY Tory MP office, please get in touch. Here are some locations we have identified where the Conservatives are susceptible to pressure.

MP Jay Aspin: Nipissing-Timiskaming (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 0.04%)
MP Ted Opitz: Etobicoke Centre (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 0.05%)
MP Bal Gosal: Bramalea-Gore-Malton (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 0.93%)
MP Wladyslaw Lizon: Mississauga East –Cooksville (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 1.44%)
MP Corneliu Chisu: Pickering-Scarborough East (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 2.52%)
MP Peter Braid: Kitchener (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 3.24%)
MP Chris Alexander: Ajax-Pickering (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 5.74%)
MP Kyle Seeback: Brampton West (Won May 2011 election by a margin of 9.78%)
MP Diane Finley: Haldimand-Norfolk (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development)

Can you help organize an action in your community either at these offices or another one? If so, please email by Monday, May 21, 2012. We can provide call-outs, draft press releases as well as support for visuals.

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change’s demands:
– A RIGHT TO LANDING STATUS be granted upon arrival for migrant workers. They must not be tied to one employer, be required to live in their employer’s home, or be subject to further medical examination;
– A RIGHT TO EQUAL ACCESS for all social programs, including Employment Insurance, health care, settlement services, social services and Workers’ Compensation;
– A RIGHT TO A FAIR APPEAL PROCESS for migrant workers prior to a pre-removal order, and a stop to deportations until this process is in place;
– A RIGHT TO FULL PROTECTION UNDER THE PROVINCIAL EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS ACT AND REGULATIONS currently enjoyed by Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents, including NO FEES for any work placement.
– Immediately implement a NATIONAL REGULARIZATION PROGRAM granting permanent immigration status for all non-residents living in Canada.

Migrant Workers Alliance denounces Tory policy to pay migrant workers less than Canadian citizens


APRIL 30, 2012

Migrant Workers Alliance denounces Tory policy to pay migrant workers less than Canadian citizens

Toronto – The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, an alliance of migrant workers, labour unions and community organizations denounces the latest Tory “jobs-strategy”, paying migrant workers 15% less than Canadian citizens.

“In April of 2010, Canada was shocked to hear of the death of 11 migrant workers that died in a car crash when a car driver after working an 11 hour day could no longer pay attention to the road and crashed. Migrant workers allies hoped that this tragedy would force the Conservative government to change its path,” says Kay Manuel, a Live-In Caregiver and member of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “Instead, the government has further concertized the race to the bottom by legislating lower wages for migrant workers that are already being exploited by employers and third parties.”

“Paying some people lower wages simply on the basis of their citizenship is fundamentally against human rights and legitimizes further abuse against migrant workers,” says Chris Ramsaroop from Justice for Migrant Workers and a member of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “These strategies result in creating a second class tier of workers with few rights and lower wages and go against the Federal Government’s own 2006 Labour Standards Review that called for equal pay for equal work. Have we not learned from our history lessons of how Chinese workers were treated in this country and the resulting trauma it caused?”

“The Conservative decision to legalize exploitation of migrant workers comes in a week of major changes in immigration policy all calculated to force immigrants in to more and more precarious work,” adds Chris Sorio from Migrante, a member of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “Bill C-31, cuts to refugee healthcare, changes to the spousal sponsorship and parents and grandparents sponsorship are all part of a strategy to keep immigrants in precarious job, with low wages that benefit no one but employers and corporations.”

Formed in April 2009, the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (formerly the Coalition for Change) is comprised of various advocacy and community groups, unions, workers and community members, aimed at improving working conditions and fighting for better protections for live-in caregivers, seasonal agricultural workers and other temporary foreign workers.

For more information,

Kay Manuel,  647 8537222
Chris Ramsaroop, 647 834 4932
Chris Sorio,  1 800 559 8092

Take Action

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Flynn & Wynne: Migrant Workers Are Part Of Our Movement

Premier Kathleen Wynne & MPP Kevin Flynn

I support a $15 minimum wage, fairer scheduling, paid emergency days and other provisions in Bill 148. I also believe all workers should have the right to join unions without threat of reprisal.

I am concerned, however, that you bowed down to Big Business during committee review of Bill 148 and introduced amendments to scheduling that will make it extremely difficult for workers who need fair scheduling to actually get access to it. Similarly, rather than strengthening the equal pay provisions for part time, temporary, causal workers and temporary agency workers so they have a chance of enforcing these new rights, the government has further eroded the Bill’s equal pay language. This especially hurts women and workers of color, who are over-represented in part-time, temporary employment. I join the $15 and Fairness Campaign in calling for strengthening of Bill 148.

For too long migrant workers in Ontario have been treated differently than other Ontarians. Ontario's laws exclude many migrant workers from minimum wage, housing regulations, protection from recruiters, access to health and safety and employment standards and injured workers compensation.

If laws exclude one group of Ontarians, everyone's affected. Migrant workers live and work in Ontario, they should have the same rights. That means:

(1) There should be no special rules and exemptions by occupation.
(2) Labour laws must be proactively enforced and community members must be able to complain about bad bosses.
(3) Migrant workers need special anti-reprisal protections including the ability to stay in the country while their complaints are being processed.
(4) Agriculture workers and Caregivers must be able to unionize and bargain collectively and sectorally.
(5) There should be no fees for work. Recruiters need to be licenced and migrant worker employers registered. These registries need to be public. Employers and recruiters need to be jointly financially liable for all fees paid to work by migrant workers. Joint liability must include any fees paid at any point in recruitment process.

You can read detailed proposals here:

Thank you! I will be watching your response closely in the weeks to come.


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