Immigration policy is designed to support and facilitate a sense of cosmopolitan multiculturalism in our society as well as creating an environment where immigrants can contribute to our society and economy. However, temporary foreign workers are not covered under the immigration policy. Most foreign workers come to Canada because they want to provide for their families back home. Canadian employers often view them as a means to cut labour costs. The Canadian Federal Government develops specific policies for temporary foreign workers (TFWs). However, the policies do not reflect the reality of employment practices; they nurture racism, and leave workers in an ambiguous status.
The topic of Temporary Foreign Workers has been debated at length by many academic writers, politicians, and scholars of contemporary time. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program [TFWP], established in January, 1973 is the successor to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program[SAWP] which was originally designed to bring Jamaican workers to help in the agricultural sector. 1 According to the Federal government the purpose of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program “is to help fill genuine and acute labour needs so that businesses can continue to grow and create more opportunities for Canadians.”2 The government is clear that this program was meant to address labour shortages. 3 From 2004-2008, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada increased by over 71%.4
The TFW federal program allows Canadian employers to hire low/semi-skilled temporary workers from other country because of the “lack” of Canadian workers. Employers can bring in temporary foreign workers if a position has not been filled after 7 days.5 Employees are brought in on a contractual basis; the maximum length of time workers are allowed to work in the country is four years. The worker must either leave the country or be unemployed for four years.6
The TFWP and its predecessor SAWP have been subject to much criticism about their policies and enforcement of labour standards, most notably the perceived lack of randomized program policy enforcement and auditing. The government has been forced revise the program’s policy regarding the ethical treatment and labour rights of TFWs. For example, in 2013 the Economic Action Plan reformed the TFWs program to ensure it was not being abused by employers and that Canadian workers were not being displaced. However, problems still exist, as is evident in the most recent case involving Canadian Albertan Oil Sand workers where Canadian workers were laid and replaced by workers from Croatia. Gil McGowan, president of The Alberta Federation of Labour has stated that the government is not doing enough to protect the labour rights of Canadian citizens. Furthermore, he argues that employers are misusing the program in order to drive wages down; in this case, the workers from Croatia were paid less than half the wage of Canadian employees. McGowan claims "this is not an isolated case. Increasingly, this is becoming business as usual." 7 The penalties for not complying with government rules include being banned from accessing the service for 2 years.8
TFWs have come to Canada to seek a better life for themselves and their families. They have been told that the Canadian way of life will improve their living standards.9 This concept is promoted in the program’s brochures which includes terms such as “protection and assistance”10 and “safe work”11, portraying the program beneficial to foreign workers while failing to mention the program’s primary goal, to protect and grow Canadian economic markets. Unfortunately, many foreign workers are exploited by their employers; they often live in crowded housing and are faced various health and safety conditions.12Even though temporary workers are entitled to some social programs, not all employers give the information to them and even when workers are told, they often have difficulties accessing the services or meeting the eligibility requirements.13
TFWs do have the right to complain about mistreatment, unfair wages, or poor living conditions, however, initiating a complaint can be intimidating. Often, the workers fear losing their job and being deported. An added problem would be filling out or accessing the form because many do not speak or understand English well enough to complete the necessary paperwork. 14 Some employers prefer hiring workers who do not backchat or demand their rights. “good workers do not question employment practices or housing conditions.”15
In fact, this preference for obedient workers has resulted in racist attitudes towards some nationalities. For instance, Caribbean workers will fight for their rights, Mexicans, often because of a language barrier do not, and Jamaicans complain a lot or party too much. This has lead to a racial attitude occurring in selection process of some ethnic groups. Farm workers from the Caribbean where discriminated against on the bases of inclusion. Partially constructed around the issues of social stability regarding the probability that the negro population would get increasingly larger, coupled with the belief that their race would sew social unrest amongst the community; Due to the prejudicial notion that they would be unable to integrate to Canadian customs and cultural norms. Satzewich writes: “‘Black’ migrants were defined as potential problems, or as individuals who might disrupt the social order…”16 This was a subversive discrimination on a particular ethnic group. How this from of racial discrimination also presents itself in a more obvious format “Blatant racism” its main roll was found amongst the replacement of the foreigner work force namely in the horticulture sector where “growers and others considered Mexican workers “closer” in appearance to the Canadian population, which “naturally” makes them more desirable workers.”17 There was a mounting concerns of Caribbean males partaking in sexual relationship with Canadian women “a labour advocate alleged that a dance hall was burned to the ground in one rural community “because West Indian workers were dancing with the White women”18
This has lead to a racial attitude occurring in selection process of some ethnic groups. Farm workers from the Caribbean where discriminated against on the topic of inclusion partially based on the prejudicial implications of social stability regarding the probability that the negro population would get increasingly larger, and the belief that they as a race would be the cause of social unrest due the prejudicial notion that they would not be able to assimilate to Canadian customs. Satzewich writes: “‘Black’ migrants were defined as potential problems, or as individuals who might disrupt the social order…”19
1.Suggested changes to the current policies
Goldring, Luin. Temporary Worker Programs as Precarious Status. Canadian Issues (Spring 2010): 50-4, http://search.proquest.com/docview/610780363?accountid=13803.
Preibisch, Kerry, and Leigh Binford. “Interrogating Racialized Global Labour Supply: An Exploration of the Racial/National Rplacement of Foreign Agricultural Workers in Canada*”. The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 44 (1) (Feb 2007): 5-36, http://search.proquest.com/docview/234926078?accountid=13803.
Siemiatycki, Myer.. Marginalizing Migrants: Canada's Rising Reliance on Temporary Foreign Workers. Canadian Issues (Spring 2010): 60-3, http://search.proquest.com/docview/610779850?accountid=13803.