News & Events
Canada adopting failed lessons of European guest worker programs
From The Maytree Newsletter:
Tough Choices for Migrant Workers, by Ratna Omidvar
Last December the Toronto Star reported that about 70 migrant workers were evicted from their apartments and fired from their jobs. The workers, mostly women from Guatemala, had been hired by a mushroom factory in Ontario as part of an expansion strategy. Only a few months into their contract, the company was forced to downsize and the workers were laid off.
As temporary foreign workers brought into Canada specifically for "low-skilled" jobs, these workers are left with few choices.
They can of course return home. However, many will have borrowed money from family and friends to pay fees and visas the federal governmentâ€™s temporary program requires. Without Canadian wages -- even the low wages likely offered by the mushroom factory -- they will likely find it difficult to repay these loans. And entry into Canada, even under the restrictive conditions of the temporary foreign worker program, is viewed by many as their "ticket" to economic prosperity.
People look to Canada for good ideas and good lessons. How ironic then, that today Canada seems to be borrowing from failed lessons of the European "guest worker" programs, which have created significant intergeneration and social
cohesion problems that Europe still does not know a way out of.
They can stay in Canada legally -- as long as they don't work. Like most other temporary workers they have their employers' name on their work permit. So they canâ€™t work for anyone else. They might be able to find a new employer -- as long as the new employer can justify that there are no Canadians or permanent residents available to fill this job. A challenge in todayâ€™s recession! Even
if it were possible, the workers would likely have to wait months for the paperwork to be sorted out. Because of their status in Canada, they wouldnâ€™t be eligible to access publically funded services -- no settlement services and no language training as would be offered to permanent residents making their home in Canada.