Exploited workers Canada's 'slave trade'
Skilled Filipino workers packed into filthy house, denied pay, threatened with deportation
Aug 30, 2008 04:30 AM
What Canilang experienced last summer is an all too-common situation – foreign workers brought to Canada under false pretences and exploited. Federal officials call it the "modern-day slave trade" and warn of "People for Sale in Canada" in a poster campaign in 17 languages, distributed through Canadian missions around the globe.
At least 800 workers are trafficked into Canada yearly and another 1,000 or more pass through Canada and into the United States, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
At the heart of the case of the Elmvale 11, as the men have been dubbed by Filipino consular staff, are immigration documents called Labour Market Opinions (LMO) issued by Service Canada.
These are Canadian gold cards for foreign workers. With an LMO, a foreign national can get a temporary permit to work in Canada. The company that wants the workers must first show Service Canada it made a reasonable – but unsuccessful – effort to hire or train Canadians for the job. LMOs stipulate the number of workers approved for the job. Copies are then sent to the workers, who apply for work permits upon arrival in Canada.
Since the federal government relaxed LMO rules two years ago, the program has expanded rapidly. In 2007, there were 201,057 temporary foreign workers in Canada, up from 162,046 in 2006 and 142,705 in 2005.
South of the border, the U.S. State Department recently called Canada "a destination for foreign victims trafficked for labour exploitation" and in an annual report recommended Canada "intensify efforts to investigate, prosecute and convict trafficking offenders."
An analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies once remarked that "there is nothing more permanent than a temporary worker" and this explains the mad rush for temporary worker applications: the people have no intention of leaving once the work is finished. Apparently there are over 200,000 temporary workers in Canada and as that number compounds over the years you can expect pressure to be applied by political and immigrant opportunists alike to pressure Ottawa and grant these people citizenship.
But the story shows how exploitable the temporary worker program is. An employer seeking cheap labour can simply fabricate efforts at finding and training domestic workers. And there is no shortage of those overseas willing to abandon everything to chase after fantasies of living and working in a wealthy nation like Canada. The very nature of the temporary worker program permits exploitation.
Amended in November 2005 to reflect the UN's definition of human trafficking, Canada's criminal code says it's a crime for anyone who "recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, or harbours a person" for the purpose of exploitation.
"The way exploitation is phrased in the criminal code, they have to fear for their safety or their lives," said RCMP Const. Julie Meeks, who conducted the initial investigation. In her opinion, Meeks said "they just didn't have that fear."
I disagree with the temporary worker program and so do the majority of Canadians. It is an attack on Canadian labour and an abuse of third world workers. Canada and Canadians first.