Migrant Rights Network Brief – Employment Insurance for Migrants

This submission by Migrant Rights Network addresses the glaring and unjust gap in the EI program that denies income security to an entire group of unemployed workers. Fixing this gap requires reforms to EI as well as immigration laws.

We are making the following recommendations in addition to those by the Interprovincial EI Working Group.

Solution #1: Canada must reform its immigration laws to ensure full and permanent immigration status for all migrant and undocumented people in Canada. In the short-term, all restrictions on work must be removed including employer specific work permits, restrictions on hours of work, and exclusion of work in “businesses related to sex trade”.  

Solution #2: Canada must amend the Employment Insurance Act to ensure that all work in Canada is “insurable” for the purposes of accessing EI, regardless of SIN. Canada should pursue employers who fail to submit EI premiums, rather than punishing workers. 

Solution #3: In order to end disentitlement due to administrative error, Service Canada must immediately issue instructions to Service Canada agents confirming eligibility for EI for migrant workers and ensure this information is incorporated into training. 

Solution #4: Service Canada must ensure the EI application process is accessible to all, including through interpretation services, simple explanations of the process, clear information upfront that the Record of Employment is not needed to submit an application, and alternatives to online applications / communications. 

Solution #5: Amend the Employment Insurance Regulation to end discriminatory disentitlements to special benefits for workers outside of the country or with expired SINs. 

Solution #6: Canada must take all steps necessary to ensure that information workers submit to EI is not shared with immigration officials.

Ontario Consultation on Temporary Help Agencies

Ontario has launched a consultation on Temporary Help Agencies is to improve compliance with the Employment Standards Act (ESA). Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) inspections have exposed what temporary agency workers and migrant workers have known for years, that there is widespread non-compliance with the ESA and Employee Protection for Foreign Nationals Act (EPFNA). The deadline for written submissions to the consultation is Friday, January 29, 2021.

Migrant worker supporting organizations in Ontario are urged to submit letters in support of a joint proposal by Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, Parkdale Community Legal Services and Workers Action Centre.

Use this template letter to draft your submissions and send via email to the Ontario government.

Read our full submissions here.

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.

Amplify Migrant Worker Voices in Federal Housing Consultations

Migrant rights supporting organizations across Canada are urged to amplify migrant worker priorities for their housing by providing written submissions into a federal consultation process. Please adapt this template letter to write your own submissions and send them to Employment and Social Development Canada by the deadline, December 22, 2020.

As background, the federal government of Canada has initiated Stakeholder Consultations on Mandatory Requirements for Employer-Provided Accommodations in the TFW Program. Draft Minimum Accommodation Requirements for Primary Agriculture have been developed and circulated for feedback. 

The Migrant Rights Network – Food & Farmworker Working Group consulted with 453 migrant farmworkers across Canada and we have submitted their response: Decent & Dignified Housing for Migrant Farmworkers [click here to read]

Migrant workers want their housing to ensure privacy, space, family unity, quality of life, and worker control. They want decent housing that provides them with a sense of home, a dignified place to rest and live like the whole human beings that they are. They want enforceable guidelines and full and permanent immigration status for all. Help amplify these voices by making a submission.

Report: Behind Closed Doors – Exposing Migrant Care Worker Exploitation During COVID-19

This shocking new report, which compiles hundreds of surveys filled out by migrant care workers during COVID-19, tells a story of entrapment, long hours, and thousands of dollars in stolen wages. It shows the enormous power employers have to abuse and exploit, and the ways in which migrant women are refusing to be silent.

Read the press release with key highlights of the report here.

Authored by Caregivers Action Centre, Vancouver Committee for Domestic Worker and Caregiver Rights, Caregiver Connection Education and Support Organization and Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, the report is endorsed by the Alberta Careworkers Association, PINAY Quebec, Migrante Canada, Migrante Alberta, and Association for the Rights of Household and Farm Workers (ADDPD/ARHW).

Click here to download the report

Report: Unheeded Warnings – COVID-19 & Migrant Workers in Canada

We are releasing a report of complaints on behalf over a thousand migrant workers and their organizations that were unheeded by federal and provincial authorities and consulates in advance of the recent COVID-19 outbreaks, which have led to two worker deaths and at least two in Intensive Care. This shocking report provides a snapshot of the abuses faced by migrant farmworkers, including stolen wages during quarantine, being forced to work while awaiting COVID-19 test results, racist threats, decrepit housing and inhumane treatment. The report situates these abuses in a long history of prior warnings made by migrant workers about Canada’s temporary immigration and labour laws. The report includes a comprehensive set of recommendations made by migrant workers, including permanent resident status for all.

CLICK HERE TO READ | Press Release here