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Conference proceeding

Under legal practices similar to slavery according to the UN Convention : Canada's "non white" "temporary" foreign workers in "low-skilled" occupations

This document is a key resource

Date

2008-04-05

Authors

Eugénie Depatie-Pelletier

Abstract

In Canada, on the basis of their national origin and/or gender, some temporary foreign workers in low-skilled occupations may be bound by law to live and work on the property of anotherperson, even if they are, at the same time, « not free to change their status » in Canada. They thus qualify as « persons under servile status » - persons under a human condition equivalent to the one experienced by slaves, under the terms of the U.N. Convention against institutions and practices analogous to slavery. Evidence gathered over the last decades - by academics, community groups, human rights NGOs, workers’ unions and the federal department of Status of Women Canada – support the claim that the current immigration system restricts the human rights of some temporary foreign workers in low-skilled occupations in a way that cannot be considered « demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society ». If Canada is looking to match the human rights minimal standards set by the U.N. Convention against practices analogous to slavery, the Canadian Charter, and the U.N. Convention for the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families, specific policy adjustments will have to be made. First, unless a worker is granted access to immigration procedures upon arrival, the work permit issued should not be restricted to a single employer, and no obligation to live with the employer should be imposed, in order to respect their right to liberty and security of the person and their freedom of association in Canada. Moreover, to exercise their rights, these taxpayers will also have to be, as all other workers, meaningfully covered by Employment Insurance, provincial Social Security programs and Public Health & Social services. Work permits will have to be exclusively issued in provincial employment sectors where the rights to collective bargaining and to safety at work are protected by provincial legislation ; renewals of authorization to employers and agencies will have to be denied in case of past worker complaints ; trafficking charges will have to be applied to abusive employers and agencies ; and, on compassionate grounds, permanent status regularization procedures will have to be developed for all residing migrants (and all future abused temporary foreign workers) who have fallen out of status in Canada. Second, in order to respect their right in Canada to equal benefit of the law, all workers under temporary status filling a « not temporary » Canadian labour shortage - including workers in the agro-food and domestic services industries - will have to be granted equal independent (not conditional to the employer’s sponsorship) family and immigration rights.

Conference name

10th National Metropolis Conference, Halifax

File Attachments

Links

Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers, Occupations in services - Domestic work, Other, Food counter attendants, kitchen helpers and related support occupations, Underground mine service and support workers, and General relevance - all sectors

Target groups

Researchers

Geographical focuses

National relevance

Languages

English