Senate proposes improvements for Canada's migrant worker programs

May 24, 2024


Ontario's fruit and vegetable growers have voiced their support for recent Senate Committee recommendations aimed at reforming the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) programs.  

The report, released by the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, criticizes the current system as inefficient and outlines six key recommendations for improvement. 

One of the primary recommendations is the establishment of an independent migrant worker commission. This body would centralize services and simplify the currently complex network of departments and ministries involved in the TFW program.  

According to Bill George, chair of the Labour Committee at the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA), this proposal aligns with the industry's long-standing demand for a more streamlined approach to delivering services to both employers and workers. 

The proposed commission aims to address the gaps in the program, enhancing the delivery of services and ensuring a positive and safe work experience for all workers. This is critical as the industry heavily relies on these programs due to ongoing labor shortages.  

Programs like the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and the agriculture stream of the TFW program have been vital, bringing thousands of workers from countries like Mexico and Jamaica to assist in Canada's labor-intensive fruit and vegetable production. 

Another significant recommendation from the Senate report is the introduction of sector or region-specific work permits. This would potentially decrease worker vulnerability by providing options to transfer between employers, a feature currently part of the SAWP but suggested for broader application. 

Canadian agriculture, especially horticulture, depends extensively on temporary foreign workers. The recommendations from the Senate aim to protect these workers while meeting the needs of employers, reflecting a balanced approach to labor challenges in agriculture.  

Ontario growers, like George, welcome these changes and look forward to collaborating with stakeholders to refine these vital labor programs, ensuring they meet modern needs and standards. 

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