Letter RE: Immediate action to protect SAWP workers against blacklisting in 2021

We urge you to develop immediate and effective solutions to ensure workers are able to return in 2021, as you work towards long-term systemic changes to ensure workers can safely assert their rights, beginning with full and permanent immigration status for all. Immediate solutions can include:

  1. Guaranteed re-entry process for migrant workers who have previously come to Canada, so that workers are not dependent on employers to be able to return to work;
  2. Workers who are not invited back should be granted access to an expedited review and reassignment process such that they can return in time for the 2021 season;
  3. Workers in sending countries should be able to raise concerns about farms and request a placement elsewhere before the 2021 season. These requests should be automatically granted, and must be accompanied by guaranteed protection against reprisals for having raised such complaints;
  4. A mechanism must be established for workers to complain about employers that have reprised against them in the form of non-invitation. This complaints mechanism must trigger an investigation of those employers by the Canadian federal government. A list of employers found to have engaged in blacklisting must be made public in Canada, be shared with sending country governments and made publicly available to workers before they begin their applications for the upcoming season.

Migrant Rights Network – Letter re Income Supports for Migrant and Undocumented Residents

Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Members of Canada’s COVID-19 Cabinet Committee

This letter is an update to our letters from March 26th and March 16th.

There are at least 1.8 million migrant and undocumented residents in Canada, or 1 in 22 people. This includes seasonal agricultural workers who are essential to Canada’s food supply, care workers in long term care homes, and taking care of children, sick and the elderly. It includes cleaners in hospitals and homes, and it includes many warehouse, food delivery and grocery store workers. Many of Canada’s essential workers are migrant and undocumented and deserve income support. They deserve to stay home if they are sick, and they deserve income if they have lost work or have had hours of work reduced.

This week, we urge you to make the following changes:
1. Ensure residents without Social Insurance Numbers have access to Canada Emergency Response Benefit through the provision of accessible Individual Tax Numbers where information is not shared with immigration authorities. We reiterate our request for a meeting to develop a dedicated delivery mechanism to ensure that all migrants are aware of and able to apply for income supports.

2. Extend access to CERB for those whose SIN has expired. Many workers in implied status or recently out of immigration status have been unable to renew Social Insurance Numbers because of delays from Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada. This particularly impacts workers on study permits, who are struggling to make ends meet.

3. The government rightly decided to ensure seasonal workers affected by COVID-19 can access CERB. This measure should be extended to seasonal migrant workers. Seasonal TFWP and SAWP workers should have access to income supports for delays in contracts, both inside and outside the country.Many agricultural workers have been delayed from starting their contracts due to border closures. Most have still not arrived. These workers must be able to apply for income supports for lost wages in this period.

4. Ensure that migrant workers who are forced to leave jobs or those that aren’t starting contracts right now are not deemed to have “quit voluntarily” and receive income supports.Many migrant care workers have been forced by their employers to move in with them. While their work hours have greatly increased, they are not being remunerated. Some migrant agricultural workers are choosing not to come for health and safety reasons, because of lack of protections while traveling or working in Canada. Migrant workers on employer dependent work permits are uniquely vulnerable to exploitation, and most cannot leave bad jobs easily. When they do leave, they are often in egregious conditions, and need income supports to transition to safety.

5. Extend income supports to migrant and undocumented residents who did not earn at least $5,000 in the previous 12 months.Many workers had lost jobs, or seen their hours cut in the months prior to CERB becoming available. Others have just arrived in Canada – an average of 48,000 new migrants arrive in Canada each month. Many workers have clung to jobs, even as hours have been reduced. Migrant workers on employer dependent visas who have left one job, but have not been able to secure an alternative LMIA approved employer are falling just below the $5,000 mark. Recently arrived refugee claimants have not earned $5,000.

Migrant Rights Network – Letter re Migrant Worker Quarantine

Re: Guidance for Employers of Temporary Foreign Workers Regarding COVID-19

These guidelines must be mandatory requirements, and monitoring and enforcement mechanisms to ensure employer compliance must be established:

  • These requirements must be adapted with a view to giving workers the ability to enforce their rights and thus protect public health. Employers already have inordinate control over workers’ lives, including over their working conditions, housing, transportation, and access to services and groceries. As such, it is essential that these proposals be deemed as requirements,not as ‘guidelines’ – failure to meet them will endanger the health and well-being of workers and the communities in which they live.
  • Employers must be required to enable self-isolation and quarantining, provide healthcare information in a worker’s language of choice, and connect workers to local public health services.
  • Employers must provide wages to workers during the quarantine period, even if they are not working. Federal income supports must be available to workers who cannot come to Canada, or who have been delayed in their arrival.
  • These requirements must apply from the moment workers depart their home countries, throughout their travel to Canada, and through travel from airports to workplaces. If workers are housed in hotels, these requirements must extend to travel from hotels to workplaces.
  • A responsive monitoring and enforcement system must be set up, in consultation with migrant worker organizations like ourselves. At a minimum this enforcement and monitoring system must include: 
    • A dedicated enforcement unit established between federal and provincial authorities, building on Employment and Social Development Canada’s compliance unit. Contact information about the enforcement unit must be shared with migrant worker organizations.
    • The enforcement unit must assess work and housing conditions prior to workers arrival to ensure physical distancing is possible and health and safety rights protected. This pre-assessment should be done via a safety plan checklist that employers must submit.○
    • The enforcement division must do swift, unannounced inspections on employers where complaints have been made, in coordination with local public health officials.
    • Non-compliance should be met with fines and suspensions as per the pre-existing employer compliance regimes. In addition, specific measures must be enacted to ensure workers are appropriately compensated where employers put their lives at risk through non-compliance.
    • A 24-hour accessible telephone hotline and web interface for workers to confidentially and anonymously make complaints about employer non-compliance in their own languages, or through third parties such as migrant worker support organizations, including through photos and videos.

Public health, not enforcement

  • Employers are not equipped to assess the health of migrant workers. All health assessmentand follow-up support must be done by public health officials. Where workers are symptomatic, and with worker permission, public health officials can coordinate with employers to ensure workplace health and safety is upheld.
  • There should be no sharing of information or contacting of law enforcement or consulates, either by employers or by compliance units in cases where workers make complaints. The possibility of health information being shared with non-health related authorities will dissuade workers from taking necessary steps to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19.
  • Workers who are sick must be provided healthcare in Canada, not deported.
  • Employers must ensure adequate hygiene products and meals for workers during theirquarantine period without deductions. These must be extended to the entire course of the crisis, if workers request it, also without deductions. These meals must be prepared by an unrelated third party catering company and the meal plan must be reviewed and approved by a qualified nutritionist (as outlined in existing SAWP contracts).
  • Workers’ ability to reach social supports must be facilitated through guaranteed wireless internet access, and connecting workers to local support organizations.
  • Healthcare must be guaranteed in all provinces, without the need for a health card, through emergency changes to Interim Federal Health program or expanded provincial health transfers.

Communication with workers is essential

  • These requirements must be made available to workers and worker rights organizations inadvance of workers travelling to Canada and at the port of entry, with information on how workers can assert their rights and make anonymous complaints, available in appropriate languages.
  • Employers must be required to share information on the safety plan with workers immediately upon arrival, and update on changes regularly.
  • Workers should also be provided with public health guidelines on hand-washing and physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic in appropriate languages.
  • All workers at a workplace must be informed about the results of inspections following anonymous tips.

Migrant Worker Policy Priorities – May 2019


There are a number of issues of key concern to migrant workers and their support organizations across Canada at this moment. These include:

  1. Employment and Social Development Canada proposals for an occupation specific work permit;
  2. Interim Pathway for Caregivers, set to expire on June 4th, 2019;
  3. Proposal for the creation of permanent residency pilot program for non-seasonal agricultural workers and a permanent residency program for Caregivers; and
  4. Regulations for the creation of an Open Work Permit Program for temporary foreign workers at risk of abuse.

For migrant workers at the receiving end of these programs and proposals, these issues are interconnected. To engage in separate consultations on each matter, and only speak to a part of an issue rather than the whole further fragments the ability of migrant workers to give meaningful input. For these reasons, we are submitting one document that addresses all four issues.

As elaborated below, migrant workers in Canada continue to demand:

  1. Permanent resident status on arrival for all migrant workers in Canada through the creation of a Federal Workers Program for care workers, and in consultation with migrant workers in other streams;
  2. In the interim, creation of open or occupation specific work permits that are not reliant on employers that would allow workers to move freely between jobs and workplaces and work for any employer in a sector;
  3. The extension and then grandparenting of the Interim Pathway for care workers to ensure that no worker is left behind;
  4. Immediate implementation of an Open Work Permit Program for workers facing risk of abuse or being abused.

In this policy memo, the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change*, Association for the Rights of Household & Farm Workers (ARHW)- Montreal, Caregiver Connections Education and Support Organization (CCESO) – Toronto, Caregivers Action Centre – Toronto, Cooper Institute – PEI, FCJ Refugee Centre – Toronto, Immigrant Workers Centre (IWC) Montreal, Income Security Advocacy Centre – Toronto, Migrant Worker Solidarity Network – Manitoba, Migrant Workers Centre (BC), Migrante Alberta, Migrante BC, Migrante Canada, Migrante Manitoba, Migrante Ontario, Migrante Ottawa, Migrante Quebec, Migrants Resource Centre Canada – Toronto, PINAY – Quebec, RAMA – Okanagan, Sanctuary Health – Vancouver and Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights (CDWCR) propose a joint position on all these matters.

* The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change includes individuals as well as Asian Community Aids Services, Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support), Caregiver Connections Education and Support Organization, Caregivers Action Centre, Durham Region Migrant Solidarity Network, FCJ Refugee House, GABRIELA Ontario, IAVGO Community Legal Clinic, Income Security Advocacy Centre, Migrante Ontario, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Northumberland Community Legal Centre, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, OHIP For All, PCLS Community Legal Clinic, SALCO Community Legal Clinic, Students Against Migrant Exploitation, UFCW, UNIFOR, Workers Action Centre and Workers United.  


Time to respond: Proposed Open Work Permits for Workers Facing Abuse or Risk of Abuse

On Friday, December 15th, the Federal Government proposed in the Canada Gazette the creation of an Open Work Permit Program for Workers Facing Abuse or Risk of Abuse. This Open Permit is in line with our proposed permits and are a step in the right direction. Click here to see our original submissions calling for this permit in December 2017.

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change has made specific submissions on ways to ensure that the proposed Open Work Permits actually ensure migrant worker protections – Read them here

The proposed regulatory changes are promising in terms of interim protections for migrant workers as we continue our call for a system of permanent resident status on landing for low-waged migrants. However, they can and must be strengthened. Current gaps include:

  • Wide range of discretionary powers for the officers to define abuse, determine the length of permits or to issue the permit at all, and lack of a robust appeals process to maintain a check on these powers;
  • Lack of specific provisions for Care Workers who need to complete 24 months of service within 48 months and need the work experience on these permits to be counted; and lack of protections from blacklisting for Seasonal Agricultural Workers;
  • Lack of guaranteed access to healthcare; and
  • Lack of specific investigative mechanisms to ensure workers are compensated for harms.

Take Action Now! Send a letter to the Federal Government right now calling for changes. Use this template letter to draft your own submissions Please share this with your colleagues.