Release: Migrant Workers Alliance for Change Responds to Changes to Temporary Foreign Workers Rules

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change


Available for comment: Syed Hussan, 416-453-3632,, Executive Director, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

Response to Changes to Temporary Foreign Workers Rules

Toronto, March 21, 2024 – The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is responding to Canada’s announcement today – the International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination – of changes to rules for temporary foreign workers and an upcoming reduction of temporary residents. 

“Migrants grow food, build homes and care for communities – we urge the government to stop fiddling with rules and imposing caps and instead create a fair society where everyone has equal rights, which must start with permanent resident status for all. The urgent problem isn’t the number of migrants or jobs; it’s that migrants are being exploited at work, treated poorly by landlords, and denied vital services like healthcare and education because they are denied permanent residency. Migrants have been some of the worst impacted by the affordability and housing crises, and, at the same time, have been scapegoated for it. Today’s announcement leans into this racist scapegoating, instead of addressing systemic government failures or working to ensure equal rights for all.”

– Syed Hussan, Executive Director, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

“Migrant workers are overworked by bosses and overlooked by Trudeau. We are on the frontlines to feed this country and grow the economy, we deserve equal rights and justice and permanent resident status for all.”

– Andrew, Caribbean greenhouse vegetable worker in Ontario, Member of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change


Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is Canada’s largest migrant-led organization, uniting migrant farmworkers, care workers, fishery workers, current and former international students, and undocumented individuals to advocate for employment and immigration justice. 

Migrant Welcome UN Slavery Rapporteur Call for Permanent Resident Status for All

Media Contact: Syed Hussan, 416-453-3632, 

Migrant Welcome UN Slavery Rapporteur Call for Permanent Resident Status for All

Toronto, September 6, 2023 – The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) welcomes the statement in Ottawa from United Nations Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery Professor Tomoya Obokata today in which he called for “paths to longterm or permanent residency be open to all migrant workers”. 

The UN Rapporteur was in Canada on a country mission where he met with migrants including 40 members of (MWAC), Indigenous people, people with disability and incarcerated people, persons of African descent and other groups facing exploitation. In his End of Mission press conference today, Professor Obokata said that  was “disturbed” that “certain categories of migrant workers are made vulnerable to contemporary forms of slavery in Canada by the policies that regulate their immigration status, employment, and housing in Canada, and he is particularly concerned that this workforce is disproportionately racialized, attesting to deep-rooted racism and xenophobia entrenched in Canada’s immigration system”. 

He also reiterated that “Newcomers who enter Canada outside of TFWP experience similar precarity. International students who work in excess of the permitted 20 hours per week, asylum-seekers awaiting their work permits, undocumented migrant workers, and those that have lost status are vulnerable to many of the same abusive practices, as they may not report abuses for fear of deportation. Employers who are aware of their status may exploit them under threat of denouncing them to immigration authorities.”

The UN Rapporteur also echoed a call for regularization of all undocumented people, a call that was also made in June 2023 by the UN Rapporteur on Migration.

“The United Nations Rapporteur has yet again stated what we all know, and migrants have been saying for decades – a two-tier system of immigration where over 1.2 million new temporary permits are being issued each year breeds exploitation, exclusion and violence. All migrants, including undocumented people, migrant students, workers and refugees, must have permanent resident status to protect themselves and ensure a fair society,” said Syed Hussan, executive director, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

Prime Minister Trudeau promised regularization of undocumented people and permanent resident status for migrant students, workers and families in a mandate letter commitment in December 2021, 20 months later, migrants continue to suffer. 


Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is a migrant-led, membership based organization of farmworkers, fishery workers, careworkers, undocumented people and current and former international students uniting for immigration and labour justice. 

Migrant Workers Call For Immediate Family Reunification And Permanent Resident Status for All

Low-waged migrants, agricultural workers and children excluded from open work permit announcement

Toronto, December 2, 2022 — Most migrants in agriculture and carework as well as others in low-waged jobs, have been excluded from Minister Sean Fraser’s confusing family reunification announcement today. Over the last three years, migrants have organized protests and actions every Family Day, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day calling for permanent residence status, so that they can be with their families. On Family Day 2022, migrants sent photos from nearly 200 migrant families that are separated from their loved ones to all MPs

“All families are equal, we all love our families, migrants live here, take care of communities but are missing birthdays, funerals and anniversaries because they are denied immediate permanent resident status,” says Syed Hussan, Executive Director, from the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “Excluding non-working age children and shunting off low-waged migrants and agricultural workers to “consultations”, continues the ongoing discrimination against the people who feed us, take care of children, and are essential to our communities. These migrants are not temporary, and their families are just as important as everyone else’s; all migrants need permanent resident status immediately.” 

Minister Fraser announced today a 2 year temporary policy to allow some migrants to bring their spouses and only their working-age children to Canada on open work permits. Without more details, it is unclear who is included in today’s announcement. What is certain is that low-waged migrants, and non-working aged children have been shut out right now. The first phase announced today is restricted to family members of migrants in the “high-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program”. However, most migrants in high-waged streams are already allowed to have their spouses and their children come to Canada, no matter what their age. 

‘Oral’, a Jamaican father of two and a peach harvester for 7 years, was angry and disappointed that farmworkers, and young children have been excluded. He said, “It’s not right that we come to Canada to take care of our families but miss out on our baby’s first steps, their birthdays and graduations. Right now my daughter is sick in Jamaica and I can’t be there to comfort her like a father should. I have a newborn baby too and only get to be with him for a little while before I must leave again. When I go back home I will be like a stranger to them, they need to be here with me.”

Intan Dewi, a mother of 12 and 9 year old children from Indonesia and a migrant child care worker for over 3 years, said “I was excited to hear that there would be an announcement about open work permits today, but I am frustrated now that it is not for care workers like me, it is for families of people who make more money. Life here is very expensive. What good life can we have with $15 an hour? It is not enough. But that doesn’t mean our families should not be with us, it means that we should be paid enough, we take care of children, we should be able to be with our children too whatever their age, we should all have permanent resident status.”

Advisory: Graduated International Students Sound the Alarm As Canada Slashes Immigration Program in Half

Media Advisory
Migrant Students United – Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

Graduated International Students Sound the Alarm As Canada Slashes Immigration Program in Half

Toronto – Current and former international students (Migrant Student Workers) are speaking out after Canada slashed the Express Entry program in half for 2022 and 2023. The Express Entry program is the only pathway to permanent residence for most of the 778,560 migrant student workers in Canada. To qualify, migrant student workers must have completed at least 1 year of high-waged work, which was impossible for many due to the pandemic. With half as many spots, many tens of thousands will not be able to complete the increased requirements and will be forced to become undocumented or leave the country. Immigration rules limit the number of hours that migrant student workers can work, even as COVID-19, and now the war in Ukraine, has created a global economic crisis and many migrant student worker families are unable to support them. International student tuition increased seven times more than domestic tuition in 2020. With Canada facing a labour shortage, Migrant Students Workers are calling for renewable Post-Graduate Work Permits, an end to the 20 hour work limit on study permits, and access to permanent resident status so that they can live and work in Canada with equal rights.

WHEN: 10am EST, Thursday March 10, 2022

WHERE: Online via Zoom, register in advance for the link:

WHAT: Migrant Student Workers call for renewable Post-Graduate Work Permits, an end to the 20 hour work limit on study permits, and access to permanent resident status. 

WHO: Jennifer Scott, President, Gig Workers United; Bipin Kumar, International Students’ Commissioner, Canadian Federation of Students – National; Syed Hussan, Executive Director, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change; and migrant student workers who are in crisis. 


  • As of December 31, 2020, there were a total of 778,560 study permit holders and post-graduate work permit holders in Canada – making them the largest group of temporary migrants in the country. 
  • The Express Entry (Federal High Skilled) path was cut down to 55,900 for 2022, down 50% from the previously announced 110,500 spots. 
  • To qualify for permanent residence through this program, migrant student workers must complete at least 1 year of high-waged work. 
  • This work must be completed before their non-renewable permits expire. Permits vary in length from 8 months to 3 years. 
  • In 2021, in light of COVID-19, the federal government made these post-graduate work permits renewable, a move that stopped the deportation of 52,000 people but the temporary program has expired. However, with the economy just re-opening, many thousands of others have not been able to complete their requirements. 
  • International student tuition increased 7.25% in 2020, while domestic student tuition increased by 1.65%. 
  • Migrant student workers in public institutions face restrictions on their study permits and can only work 20 hours per week off-campus. 
  • With high tuition fees and limited income, many international students work past the 20 hour limit, forcing them to work under the table, which opens them up to labour exploitation. 
  • 60% of study permit holders worked and paid taxes according to StatsCan. 

Release: Migrant care workers shut out again as federal immigration program closes in 17 days

Toronto – Just 17 days after it was reopened, the Home Child Care Provider Pilot Program (HCCP) closed today. The HCCP is the only pathway for migrant care workers taking care of children to get permanent residency in Canada. The program has an annual cap of 2,750 that keeps being reached faster and faster each year, shutting out migrant care workers who are unable to gather documents and complete requirements in the few days that the program opens. Care workers in Canada must now wait till January 1, 2023 to apply. 

“The HCCP is the only federal pathway to permanent residence for temporary foreign workers taking care of children and it is designed in a way to exclude most migrant women. Many thousands can’t even apply because of unfair language and education requirements. Those that have applied have been waiting in a years-long backlog. We need a complete overhaul of Canada’s immigration system to ensure permanent resident status for all migrants,” says Jhoey Cruz, organizer with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, and a former migrant care worker. 

June Reyes, a migrant care worker in Eastern Ontario who has been in Canada for 2019 years, was waiting to apply but the program closed before she was able to. She says, “I was waiting for the program to re-open this year and had already gathered most of my documents to apply. What is going to happen to my kids? My daughter is 18 already, will I be able to bring her here to Canada? I’m a single mother and being alone working here is so difficult. The government is not helping us. Permanent immigration status for all is the only solution.”


Media Contact: 647-782-6633 – Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

Migrant Farm Worker Dies of COVID in Government Mandated Quarantine

Yesterday, on May 20, 2021, a 4th migrant farm worker died of COVID-19, the 5th migrant farm worker to die during the Federal government mandated quarantine just this year. 

Fausto Ramirez Plazas arrived in Canada from Mexico on April 22nd. He had tested negative on his mandatory pre-travel COVID test, and tested negative again upon arrival at Pearson International Airport. Him and his co-workers were put into quarantine by their employer, Procyk Farms in Norfolk County, three people per room. Fausto and his coworkers tested positive for COVID on their mandatory 10 day test. Fausto died in hospital in Brantford on May 20. 

“Clearly what the government is doing to supposedly protect workers is not enough. Only permanent immigration status will give workers the power to protect themselves from bad working conditions and from COVID. These workers are dying in quarantine mandated by the federal government, which means they are dying on the federal government’s watch. How many workers have to die before Justin Trudeau takes action and grants status for all?”, says Luisa Ortíz, Farm Worker Organizer with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

We have been able to confirm at least 5 other migrant farm worker deaths in 2021:

  • Logan Grant. Died March 13, 2021. In quarantine for eight days.
  • Roberto Jacob Baca Gomez. Died March 22, 2021. In quarantine for three days.
  • Jose Antonio Coronado. Died April 23, 2021. In quarantine for seven days. 
  • Romario Morgan. Died April 29, 2021. In quarantine for thirteen days. 
  • Name unknown. Died April 30, 2021. Hospitalized, reportedly of COVID-19.

In a statement released by MWAC Farm Worker members on May 5, workers demanded the government grant status for all immediately, in addition to an immediate investigation into all the deaths, automatic and immediate compensation for families of the deceased, and changes to quarantine procedures to ensure workers are protected, developed with leadership from workers themselves. 

For media inquiries: Karen Cocq, 647-970-8464,

Advisory: International Students Left Out in the Cold As Schools Reopen & Unemployment Remains High

Thousands face deportation, high fees, and lack of healthcare

Toronto and Mississauga, September 10, 2020 — Current and former international students are organizing a weekend of demonstrations in Toronto (Sep 12) and Mississauga (Sep 13) to call for changes to immigration rules to recover from COVID-19. International student tuition fees have increased dramatically during COVID-19 even as students and their families have lost work and wages, and classes have shifted online. Many international graduates on time-restricted work permits are required to complete 12-24 months of continuous high waged work to qualify for permanent resident status. However, with unemployment for racialized workers at 17%, most graduates do not have access to these jobs. Work permits remain non-renewable despite the impact of COVID-19 on the job market, meaning that thousands face deportation in the near future because they cannot fulfill requirements. Delays in permit processing has resulted in thousands without active Social Insurance Numbers. Access to healthcare for former students, even during COVID-19, is tied to having a full-time job, and most students cannot access emergency supports. Over 14,000 people have signed two petitions calling for changes in immigration policy now.

TORONTO – Saturday, September 12, 2:45pm
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office, 344 Bloor Street West

MISSISSAUGA – Sunday, September 13, 2pm 
Westwood Square Mall, 7205 Goreway Drive

There were 572,000 new study permits and 98,470 new post graduate work permits issued in 2019. Many of these permit holders remain in Canada for several years. Over 17,000 one or two-year work permits were issued between September 2019 and June 2020.

Migrant students are calling on the federal and provincial government to:

  • FIX RULES AROUND WORK: Make post-graduate work permits renewable so former students can complete requirements for Permanent Residency (PR) in the COVID-19 job market; Remove time-limits and industry restrictions on work;
  • GIVE REAL ACCESS TO PR: Lower points requirements for PR (CRS); Count work that is part-time, in-school, in any occupation, including with gaps towards PR; and Ensure full and permanent immigration status for all migrants;
  • LOWER TUITION & ENSURE FULL SERVICES: Ensure migrant students pay domestic tuition; Full access to all services including healthcare, housing, jobs, scholarships, pandemic emergency benefits, and in-school support; Immediate access to Social Insurance Numbers
  • UNITE FAMILIES: Allow families to travel, ensure work permits for family members

Migrant worker fired for speaking to journalists calls for full immigration status for all

Toronto, July 30, 2020 — Migrant farmworker, Luis Gabriel Flores Flores, who was fired for speaking to journalists after testing positive for COVID-19, calls on the Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino today to demand immigration status for all. 

Reading from a letter he had written, Mr Flores said, “What happened to me is what happens to migrants when we try to defend their rights. We have been subjected to a system of temporary immigration where if we stand up for ourselves, we are deported. Today, I am here to say to you that I am not afraid. That I deserve dignity. That all of us deserve dignity. That is why we need permanent resident status now, so workers can have the power to protect ourselves. Our health, our well-being, our families, and our lives depend on it.” See Mr Flores’ full letter to the Minister of Immigration here

Mr Flores first came to Canada in 2014, and is a father of 2 children from Mexico. In 2020, he came to work at Scotlynn Farms. He tested positive for COVID-19 and was quarantined. During that time he spoke to journalists about the poor living conditions and mistreatment at Scotlynn Farms. On June 20th, Juan López Chaparro, who also worked at Scotlynn farm and lived with Mr Flores, died from COVID-19. The following day, Mr Flores was fired by Mr Robert Biddle Jr., founder of Scotlynn Farms.

“For years, we have called on the federal government to stop tipping the scales against migrant workers, to stop giving employers complete control over workers’ lives. All migrants must have the power to protect themselves, to speak up, to leave abusive and dangerous situations, and that means full immigration status for all is essential,” says Syed Hussan, Executive Director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “The federal government needs to send a signal to migrant and undocumented people across the country today that what happened to Mr Flores will not be tolerated, and that migrants who speak out will be protected.”

Over 1,100 migrant farmworkers in Ontario have been infected with COVID-19 because of their housing and working conditions. One in 23 people (over 1.6 million people) in Canada are migrants, refugees, or undocumented. They are unable to access essential services, assert basic rights or access emergency support. Employer reprisals against them are common.

Over 10,000 people have signed a petition calling for permanent resident status for all and other protections for migrants: A visual petition of over 200 migrant workers calling for status was recently posted on Prime Minister Trudeau’s office:

Timeline of Reprisals Against Mr Flores

  • Mr Flores came to Canada on April 18, 2020, and was in quarantine for two weeks at a hotel. 
  • He started work at Scotlynn Farms in Norfolk, Ontario, where housing and working conditions were very poor. It was impossible for workers to physically distance, workers had no Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and they were not allowed to rest. 
  • A couple of weeks later several of Mr Flores’s colleagues started showing COVID-19 symptoms. Mr Flores and others repeatedly requested medical attention for them. 
  • They were told by supervisors that information had been shared with management but no medical attention was provided and no testing was done. 
  • Eventually workers got so sick, that one of Mr Flores’s colleagues called a contact off the farm to send an ambulance. 
  • As a result, testing finally occurred at the end of May and nearly 200 workers at the farm tested positive, including Mr Flores. 
  • While in quarantine, Mr Flores shared the story of labour exploitation and sub-standard housing with Globe & Mail on June 10, 2020 and Toronto Star on June 13, 2020 in tandem with a report released by the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC). He was one of several workers who spoke out. The press conference of the report received coverage on CTV, Global, CBC, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and many other outlets. 
  • At 11pm on June 20, 2020, Mr Flores and other farmworkers were informed that his roommate Mr Juan Lopez Chaparro had died of COVID-19. 
  • Mr Flores spoke up at that time to supervisors, demanding an explanation from the employer and that the farm take responsibility for what happened. 
  • At 11:00 a.m. on June 21, 2020, Mr. Robert Biddle Jr., founder of Scotlynn Farms, arrived at Mr. Flores’ bunkhouse apartment unit. Mr Biddle showed Mr Flores an image of a video from a press conference by MWAC which featured Mr Flores’ colleague. He told Mr Flores that he would be sent back to Mexico first thing the next morning. Mr Flores insisted that he was not the person in the video. See Mr Biddle’s photo here
  • Mr Biddle left and a foreman reiterated the employer’s decision, and informed Mr Flores that the employer was looking for three other workers they suspected of speaking to the press. 
  • Mr Flores left the farm, and has been housed by a supporter in coordination with Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.
  • On July 30, 2020, Mr Flores filed an anti-reprisals claim to the Ontario Ministry of Labour for $40,401.35 (the maximum possible under existing laws), and visited the office of Federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino to call for full and permanent immigration status for all.
  • Mr Flores remains in Canada, on a tied work permit that only allows him to work for Scotlynn, which is set to expire on November 30th. He has no permanent housing, or permanent income and is concerned about how he will support his family back home. 

CBC Ombudsperson: Investigate documentary on “birth tourism”

The following is a letter sent to CBC Ombudsperson. You can send a complaint also through:

CBC 5th Estate Documentary – Passport babies: The growing shadow industry of birth tourism is inaccurate, unfair, imbalanced and puts migrants at risk

We are writing to you regarding the recent CBC 5th Estate’s documentary titled Passport babies: The growing shadow industry of birth tourism broadcast on January 5, 2020, and accompanying CBC web articles. This letter is co-signed by 30 immigrant rights, labour, research and indigenous rights organizations. 

The documentary and the accompanying articles fail to meet even the most minimal standards for fairness and accuracy in reporting. The program provides a biased version of events, and does not include any immigration rights expert voices. In the current climate of rising xenophobia and racism, this kind of misinformation only increases the  risk of violence and hatred toward migrants and their families.

(1) Accuracy

The program repeatedly reiterates that there are 5,000 non-resident births per year in Canada, and directly links that number to births by tourists. This number has only been cited in one report by Policy Options from November 22, 2018. However, in that study, the report author Mr. Griffith highlights that the 5,000 figure includes all migrants in Canada that do not have health coverage – not just tourists. This fact is not mentioned in the 5th Estate’s report at all. Over 780,000 temporary permits were issued during the period of Mr. Griffith’s study. In addition, there are an estimated  500,000 undocumented residents in Canada. Births by any migrants who did not have medical coverage are counted in the 5,000 figure. Thus, births by tourists are likely dramatically lower than what 5th Estate states them to be.

(2) Fairness

The 5th Estate episode, as well as the accompanying CBC piece titled ‘All about the money’: How women travelling to Canada to give birth could strain the health-care system, posit that lack of fee payment by tourist mothers is hurting the integrity of the healthcare system. The statistics provided, as outlined above, are not limited to tourists but include all non-payment of health fees by migrants. Many migrants are excluded from health coverage because of their temporary permits. Many are unable to pay up front the high fees necessary for life-saving care, putting their lives at risk. In July of 2019, the United Nations urged Canada to change legislation to ensure access to healthcare to all residents. This is critical context about the systemic denial of healthcare to migrants which, when left out, negatively biases viewers towards the reality of healthcare access for migrants. 

The show highlights that hospitals and doctors are collecting high fees from patients – $18 million invoiced, and only $2 million not paid. Considering non-payment of fees here includes all migrants, it is important to clarify that 42.9% of non-permanent residents in Canada are low-income, and thus are unable to afford such high fees. And yet the CBC reports the numbers as if they are simply rich tourists accessing services and refusing to pay. 

At the same time, front line nurses in the show itself point out how increased profit by hospitals is not resulting in increased staffing. But the production and editing of the show, including corresponding questions to hospital authorities and government officials, lays the blame for the strains on the health care system on fee non-payment by migrants, instead of inadequate staffing support and low government funding for front line workers, particularly nurses. 

(3) Balance

The show features several voices, including US President Donald Trump and Canadian parliamentarians, all speaking out against “birth tourism”. No immigration rights organizations, experts or lawyers are featured that could provide nuance or alternative interpretations of the statistics cited, , or shed light on the impact that high healthcare fees have on migrants, or to outline policy alternatives  developed by migration policy experts, for example, on the regulation of international recruiters – a subject of extensive policy and legislative work by immigrant rights organizations. 

(4) Impact on migrants

Police-reported hate crimes in Canada have been surging, a fact highlighted in the accompanying 5th Estate documentary aired on the same date. This rise in hate crimes is a direct result of growing anti-immigrant sentiment, analyses and rhetoric. In such an environment, producing inaccurate, unfair, and unbalanced media reports serves only to fan these flames of xenophobia and racism by redirecting concerns about lack of funding for healthcare towards immigrants.  This is dog-whistle politics, and it has a direct and harmful effect on hundreds of thousands individuals and families, and biases policy makers. 

We urge you to investigate the documentary, and accompanying web-stories closely, and to issue retractions and clarifications, and to ensure such inaccurate and biased reports on immigration policy are not aired in the future. 

On behalf of:

  1. Migrant Workers Alliance for Change*
  2. OCASI-Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
  3. Idle No More
  4. Association for the Rights of Household and Farm Workers (ADDPD-ARHW)
  5. Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network
  6. BC Health Coalition
  7. Caregiver Connections Education and Support Organization
  8. Caring for Social Justice collective
  9. Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter
  10. Collaborative Network to End Exploitation
  11. CUPE 1571
  12. Durham Region Labour Council 
  13. Faraday Law
  14. Idle No More Ontario
  15. Institut universitaire SHERPA: migration, diversité, santé
  16. Migrant Worker Solidarity Network, Manitoba
  17. Migrant Workers Centre – BC
  18. Migrante Alberta
  19. Migrante BC
  20. Montréal Antifasciste
  21. No One is Illegal – Halifax: K’jipuktuk
  22. No One Is Illegal Toronto
  23. No One Is Illegal – Fredericton
  24. Northumberland Labour Council
  25. Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
  26. Sanctuary Health
  27. Toronto Seed Library
  28. Unifor Local 222
  29. Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights (CDWCR)
  30. Workers Action Centre

* The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) 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, Chinese Canadian National Council – Toronto, 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.

Migrant workers left behind in 2017 Federal Budget

Joint Release from Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and Coalition for Migrant Workers


Contact: Sharmeen Khan – Migrant Workers Alliance for Change – 1-647-881-0440

Natalie Drolet – Executive Director, West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association – 1-604-669-6452 or 1-604-445-0661

March 24, 2017, Toronto — Migrant workers and advocates are angered that the 2017 Federal Budget failed to deliver promised details on reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.  The Liberals delayed their response to a Parliamentary Committee review of the TFWP in January by promising that details would be announced in the Budget.  But the Budget offers only a handful of paragraphs that ignore migrant workers’ critical demands for open work permits, permanent residency and robust rights enforcement.  Instead, the Budget re-announces policy positions that were originally announced in December or in the Liberals’ 2015 election platform.

“The Liberals are continuing to delay while migrant workers continue to face exploitation,” says Sharmeen Khan, Coordinator of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “The Budget acknowledges that migrant workers need protection for their rights to decent work and that migrant workers need access to permanent residency.  But the Budget doesn’t actually deliver any policy response to address these long-standing demands or dedicate resources to meaningful proactive rights enforcement,” says Khan.  “Migrant workers raised many important concerns in the TFWP review and the Liberals need to address them in a real way that delivers real change.”

Under the new budget, workers in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and the Caregiver and Temporary Foreign Worker Programs will continue to have their work permits tied to one employer. Furthermore, the exemption to “caps” in low-wage seasonal industries means further exploitation and precarity for migrant workers in sectors such as fisheries where an unlimited number of migrant workers are only hired for 6 months on a non-renewable permit.

The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development (HUMA) recommended in its 2016 review of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program that the government develop open work permits and pathways to permanent residency  for temporary foreign workers. Yet despite these clear recommendations, the Liberal government has refused to overhaul this deeply unjust and exploitative condition on Canada’s most marginalized workforce. While the government claims to continue investigating ways to developing pathways to permanent residency, no details or resources were given in the budget regarding how this work would be done.

“The vulnerability and violence we experience is a result of tied work permits,” says Gabriel Alahuda, a member of Justice for Migrant Workers. “I should be able to complain about my employer, or if needed leave and find other work without the fear of deportation. Without open work permits and permanent status, we are forced to stay in abusive working conditions.”

The Canadian government had an opportunity to rectify decades of abuse and mistreatment by ensuring that migrant workers have the same labour rights afforded to other workers. However, the failure of the government to protect this workforce reveals that the government’s priority is to maintain an exploitative and racist policy that provides a cheap, exploitable workforce for employers and disproportionately exploits workers of colour and women.
If the government is committed to building a “better future for temporary foreign workers” they must meet with migrant workers to develop direct paths to permanent residency, eliminate work permits tied to one employer and develop stronger enforcement to protect migrant workers from abuse. But so far, migrant workers and advocates have been waiting for over a year with no real commitment from the current Liberal government  to better the lives and working conditions for migrant workers.

For more information on our demands, please check go to our petition here.