A unified cross-Canada framework for action on migrant workers
Status on Landing means that:
- People in low-waged occupations currently coming into Canada in the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, Caregiver Program, Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program and other programs with work authorization permits will be able to come to Canada as permanent residents, if they so choose, including being able to sponsor their families.
Calling for Status on Arrival is pragmatic, possible and necessary. Here is why:
(1) Status on Arrival is what migrant workers want.
Since at least 1968, migrant worker rights groups organizing with domestic workers, caregivers, seasonal agricultural workers, and temporary foreign workers (then the Non-Immigrant Employment Authorization Program) have unified around a single demand, full immigration status on landing for migrant workers.
Today, members of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, Canada’s largest migrant worker rights coalition, Migrante Canada, the Temporary Foreign Workers Coalition in Alberta, groupings in British Columbia and Temporary Foreign Workers Association in Quebec are all unified on this demand.
(2) Immigration Status on Arrival ensures rights for all workers.
We know that most low-waged workers are tied to a single employer and bad bosses are mistreating migrant workers. This mistreatment includes paying workers lower wages than workers with Canadian citizenship. Migrant workers are either directly excluded from labour protections, or labour laws are not responsive to their vulnerability to abuse and deportation. Access to healthcare, post-secondary education, pensions, employment insurance and other social entitlements is only available to those with permanent status.
Ensuring permanent residency status on arrival removes the differential treatment of migrant workers, and thus removes the possibility of overall decrease in wages and working conditions in any industry. It ensures equal access to healthcare and social protections for migrant workers, and because of their preventative nature, ensures better public health for all residents, and saves money to the public purse in the long run.
(3) Status on Arrival is a consistent policy direction.
Canadian federal immigration policy divides workers coming in to the country in to two categories: those that arrive with permanent immigration status, and those that don’t. Those who don’t are temporary foreign workers who are in large part racialized and low-waged. Status on landing is a policy position that refuses to separate racialized and low-waged workers from other kinds of immigrants coming in to the country. It creates a unified framework that can more easily be operationalized in the long-term.
Is it winnable?
Yes. Status on landing already exists for high-waged workers immigrating to Canada; it is the simplest policy and political solution. We also know that there are at least 25 million migrant workers around the world, and every one of the 16 richest countries in the world (OECD) has foreign worker programs. It is going to be hard to turn the tide towards permanent status and away from temporary work. We need short-term goals as we work towards status on arrival. These goals can include ensuring that migrant workers:
- are not tied to one employer;
- have equal access to all social programs, including Employment Insurance, health care, settlement services, social services and workers’ compensation;
- have a right to a fair appeal process prior to a removal order;
- have full protections under the provincial employment standards act and regulations currently enjoyed by Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents, including no fee for any work placement. A comprehensive recruiter regulation program is also needed;
- who have become undocumented have access to a comprehensive national regularization program to regularize their status.
For more detailed provincial and federal reform proposals, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why not just call for shutting down the Temporary Foreign Workers Program?
Once status on landing is implemented, the temporary foreign workers program would effectively end. Calling for status on landing is important and different because:
- Currently there is no other path for low-waged, racialized people to come to Canada. Shutting down the program would mean the mass exclusion of those communities. Not only is it not fair, it makes no economic sense. The Parliamentary Budget officer recently showed that the number of Canadian citizens and permanent residents with the skills to work in industries that migrant workers usually do has dropped by 26%.
- If we call for shutting down the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, it would be almost impossible to organize with workers who are already in the program, and who have friends and family members planning to come in through it.
- It’s also a question of what happens first. We would need to call for permanent programs, and only when they are implemented, would we be able to call for closure of the temporary programs. Status on landing moves it from a two-step ask, to a simpler one-step demand.
Does this mean anyone will be able to come to Canada?
The immigration system has its internal controls, including overarching laws, regulations and case law. Ensuring status on landing won’t change that. These immigrants would face the same scrutiny as immigrants’ parents being sponsored, or someone with a economics degree.
High-wage workers, even if they are coming under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program right now, have the option of applying to come in permanently through one of the Express Entry pathways. Status on landing won’t give high-waged workers an added advantage; it will give low-waged, racialized, workers, many of them women, access to dignity and stability.