On July 10, 2021, the Government of Canada proposed a series of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR). The amendments address the necessity of enhancing the protection of temporary foreign workers, who may lack access to information on their rights. As a result, these workers may be rendered vulnerable to workplace exploitation and abuse. While the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP) were devised to ensure employer discipline, there remain some gaps in need of adjustment.
Moving into a new country usually entails insecurities, whether they refer to those of culture, language, or politics. Temporary workers in Canada was no exception from this generalization, especially when their temporary status expose them to the following vulnerabilities:
- Language barriers;
- Social and physical isolation due to workplace locations;
- Lack of knowledge about their rights;
- Fear of reprisal, which may refrain them from reporting employer misconducts.
The proposed amendments to the IRPR aim to protect temporary foreign workers by setting new standards for employers in alignment with federal and provincial/territorial laws. Moreover, the amendments will foster stricter consequences on employer non-compliance. Oversight duties regarding temporary foreign worker protection will be carried out by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officers. The specifics of these changes are as follows:
- Employers keep employees up-to-date about the latter’s rights in Canada;
- A valid, signed employment agreement exist between the employer and employee;
- Employees have access to health care services if injured or become ill;
- Employee insurance must cover fees of emergency medical care, if not already covered;
- Expand the definition of “abuse” to include employer reprisal;
- Withhold employers from charging recruitment fees;
- ESDC and IRCC officers hold the authority to require documents from third parties for employer compliance verification;
- Reduce employer response time to notices of preliminary findings from 30 to 15 days;
- Append new requirements for Labor Marketing Impact Assessments (LMIAs) submitted by employers, rendering wage and labor-dispute factors stand-alone requirements.
The previously mentioned regulations will take effect on the 30th day after their registration into law. Albeit they remain as proposals at the current stage, their passage into law is guaranteed. The Government of Canada seeks consistent improvement on its protection of foreign temporary workers, given their vitality in facilitating the country’s infrastructures. Considering IRCC’s generous intake of immigrants in both the short and long run, the optimization of foreign temporary workers’ rights is assuredly a prioritized goal.