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Newspaper article

Documentary tells stories of foreign workers

Date

2011-05-27

Authors

Stephanie Law

Abstract

Junko Ota-Paul learned her rights the hard way when she came to Canada four years ago as a live-in caregiver. Ota-Paul said her employer, who hired her from the Philippines under Canada's temporary foreign worker program, paid her less than $8 per hour.

Newspaper title

The Vancouver Sun

Notes

Junko Ota-Paul learned her rights the hard way when she came to Canada four years ago as a live-in caregiver.

Ota-Paul said her employer, who hired her from the Philippines under Canada's temporary foreign worker program, paid her less than $8 per hour.

"I don't think that the money you get every month would be enough for you to save up for yourself and send money back home to your family," she said.

But when she tried to find other work, her employer threatened her with deportation. Her boyfriend at the time (now husband), who was familiar with various immigrant and women's rights organizations, helped her fight for her right to leave her job, but stay in the country.

Ota-Paul's loss of rights is a familiar story for many temporary foreign workers in this country. This includes the $10-million class action lawsuit launched earlier this year against the company that owns Denny's restaurants in B.C. for not fulfilling contract terms of over 50 migrant workers. That's why Ota-Paul shared her story as part of a multimedia project, Foreign Worker, Local Neighbours, launched by Mayor Gregor Robertson's working group on immigration.

A documentary made for the project shares the stories of Ota-Paul, Ronald Arcos, a worker in the food and service industry, and Luis Almazan, a visual effects editor. Both came to Canada under the temporary foreign worker program.

Producer and project consultant Devon Wong said the film is an entry point for the public to understand problems with the temporary foreign worker program and difficulties these workers face.

"There are more and more worker abuse stories covered in the media in the last few years," she said. "But yet there hasn't been any exploration of the program's social impact."

Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs, co-chair of the working group, said there are more temporary foreign workers coming to Vancouver than immigrants, but service funding only targets immigrants.

"These aren't just arms and legs," Meggs said. "These are human beings and people with rights and aspirations."

There are more than 38,000 temporary foreign workers in Metro Vancouver, and more are expected each year, according to the multimedia project's website, www.tfwvancouver.ca.

Meggs said he hopes the project will inform the working group's future recommendations on how these workers impact the city and how best to help them.

The documentary will screen at 3: 30 p.m. on Saturday in the Alice Mackay Room, Vancouver Public Library. It will be followed by a public forum.

Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers and Occupations in services - Domestic work

Content types

Documented cases of abuse

Target groups

Public awareness

Geographical focuses

British Columbia and Philippines

Languages

English