Months after reporting on how foreign workers in Canada on work visas made the difference between their families in their home countries merely existing or flourishing, a proposal to the government may impact the ability of these workers to earn money and stay long-term in Canada. There are currently an estimated 300,000 foreign workers in Canada, and approximately 10,000 of them helped build the recent 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.
These workers do many of the valuable manual labour jobs that keep the Canadian economy afloat, like picking fruit and vegetables or working in factories.
In fall 2009 Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney said that there would be changes proposed to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. However the prorogation of Parliament has delayed any further mention of them. Now that Parliament is back in session, we can expect to hear further updates soon.
Among the changes proposed:
• Workers who have been in Canada for four years will not be eligible to work in Canada again for six more years.
• Workers who want to stay in Canada for longer than four years must apply in the same manner as other immigrants looking for permanent residence
The Canadian Labour Congress has said that many migrant workers are afraid to speak out about unsafe working conditions and discrimination for fear of not being allowed to stay in Canada, and the changes will only make the fear of losing their jobs and their ability to stay in Canada worse
One such migrant worker exposed to an unsafe environment is Michael Phan, one of two men who were severely injured in a mushroom farm accident in 2008 that lead to the deaths of three others in Langley, British Columbia. Phan inhaled toxic fumes when a pipe burst, and is still in a coma in hospital with severe brain injuries. We also previously blogged about the four migrant workers in North York who fell to their deaths on New Years Eve because of a lack of proper safety measures in effect.
If these proposed changes do come to pass, many foreign workers on Canadian work permits will be put in a precarious situation affecting their own status in Canada, their Canadian employers and families aborad. During these times of economic uncertaintly, this is not the time to put up barriers to employment.
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