Imported workers face uncertainty
A growing number of temporary foreign labourers now jobless, vulnerable in recession
Dec 17, 2008 04:30 AM
The sudden layoffs of 70 imported labourers at an Ontario mushroom farm this month highlights the precarious future for a growing pool of unemployed temporary foreign workers as the economy plunges into recession.
The federal program, massively expanded in the past two years, was designed to import workers on a temporary basis in response to labour shortages and an ever-changing labour market. There are now more than 300,000 temporary foreign workers in the country.
Many don't speak English well, are unaware of their labour rights, and could become further exploited in low-wage jobs or disappear underground.
Experts are calling on the government to halt the program immediately until it comes up with a contingency plan on what to do with the workers already here and facing unforeseen hardship.
Not only should the program be halted immediately but Canada may want to halt all immigration into the country as well.
An unprecedented number of foreign workers have arrived in recent years – 103,400 in 2003 to 165,198 last year. The number is expected to surpass that in 2008. Half are in technical and skilled trades, lower-skilled clerical and labour jobs, including farm workers and nannies.
To date, the federal government has not come up with a plan on what to do with temporary foreign workers in the event of a slowdown and layoffs. Nor is there an "exit control" scheme to ensure the workers' departure when their time is up in the country.
A gentleman associated with the U.S. based Center for Immigration Studies remarked that "there is nothing more permanent than a temporary worker". Though these individuals are only in Canada on a temporary basis if trends are any indication (migrant Hispanic workers in the U.S., Caribbean and South Asian "temp workers" in post war Britain, Moroccan and Algerian "temp" labour in post war France) many of them will not leave the country and the fact that the Canadian government has no "'exit control' scheme" nor a plan on what to do with these individuals in an economic slowdown further cements this likelihood. If the number of temporary foreign workers lingering in Canada becomes too large to handle I predict a general amnesty will be granted which is why we need to bring the temp foreign worker program under control now.
However, here's the paragraph in the report we need to pay closest attention to:
"The pressure is on the federal government to cap the size of the temporary foreign worker program," said University of Victoria labour law professor Judy Fudge, an expert on migrant workers and law. "This will be a big year ... testing the legitimacy of the program. How can an employer say they don't have the people to do the job?" she asked. "If the number of foreign workers remains strong despite the slowing economy, it'd show that Canadian employers are simply addicted to low-paid workers without rights."
The importation and use of temporary foreign workers in Canada is a double edged sword. Not only is it the abuse of the desperation of those living in the developing world it is also an assault on the wages of Canadians and their standard of living. In effect, the immigrant's pursuit of a "better life" in Canada means the imposition of a "worse life" for a Canadian.
If Canada maintains it current regime of high immigration numbers complimented with the steady importation of temporary foreign workers during a recessionary period touted as the worst in the post war era it will just prove how sacrosanct the program is and how it has become divorced from serving the real needs of Canada and Canadians. It is immigration for immigration's sake; to employ those in the immigration industry with a steady and ever increasing stream of clientele; to keep wages down and party contributions from the business community up; to pander to ethnic voting blocs and satisfy their neo-colonial aspirations by assuring them that the steady influx of their countrymen will continue unabated, further cementing their permanence, prevalence, and perhaps dominance in Canadian society.
In the end, of course, it is Canadians who will end of sacrificing the most, even losing their country.