Senate calls for establishing a Migrant Worker Commission to support foreign workers

Senate calls for establishing a Migrant Worker Commission to support foreign workers
May 22, 2024

At least one industry organization supports this recommendation

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A Senate committee recommends the creation of an independent group to oversee Canada’s migrant worker program.

Establishing a Migrant Worker Commission is the top recommendation in the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology’s report about solutions for temporary and migrant labour in Canada.

The commission would be an “arms-length, independent agency of the Government of Canada that would coordinate policy and respond to Canadian employers, Canadian workers and migrant workers alike,” the report’s executive summary says.

A Commissioner for Migrant Workers would lead this group, which would establish research agendas, advocate for migrant workers, and monitor migrant worker infrastructure.

The number of temporary foreign workers in Canadian ag has gone up each year between 2020 and 2023.

That year, Canadian ag employed 55,171 temporary foreign workers, data from Stats Canada says. In 2023, the number of migrant workers employed in Canadian ag was 70,267 – an increase of 27 per cent over that time.

In total, the senate committee made six recommendations.

These include collaboration with provincial governments about migrant workers’ rights to access health care and reviewing criteria necessary for migrant workers to apply for permanent residence.

Another recommendation is to establish a plan to phase out employer-specific work permits within three years.

These permits set out the conditions of where and how long a migrant worker may work for.

But these permits also make “migrant workers more vulnerable to abuse at the hands of bad actors as well as imposing structural barriers to accessing rights and protections,” the committee’s report says.

The permits also hinder employer flexibility and the ability for employers to recognize good work, the report adds.

At least one industry organization has come out in support of the senate’s report.

Providing measures to support migrant workers is a necessary step, said Bill George, chair of the Labour Committee at the Ontario Fuit and Vegetable Growers’ Association.

“The proposed commission with centralized services is in line with what fruit and vegetable growers have long been asking for – the creation of a one-stop shop for more efficient delivery of TFW services for both employers and workers,” he said in a statement. “Mistreatment of workers is unacceptable and as an industry, we have long been committed to the continuous improvement of Canada’s temporary foreign worker programs to ensure all workers have the opportunity for a positive, safe work experience while in Canada.”

The federal immigration and employment ministers have 120 days to respond to the committee’s recommendations.

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