In Foreign Workers

Foreign worker abuse by Canadian employers occurs on a frequent enough basis that CIC has a warning on its own site:

“The government of Canada condemns all acts of labor exploitation, including human trafficking. Human trafficking is a most extreme form of labor and sexual exploitation and a serious crime punishable by severe penalties including imprisonment.”

It reiterates that employers:

· must pay for work including overtime were required

· must make sure that the workplaces are safe

· must give workers proper break time and days off

· must only ask workers to perform duties for which they are not hired

· cannot confiscate passports or work permits away

· cannot threaten deportation from Canada or threaten to change immigration status

Last week an upset and frustrated individual emailed me saying that her employer was forcing her to work up to 17 hours a day, not providing the breaks needed, not paying overtime (and even taking cash back) and threatening deportation from Canada if she told anyone.

Although this foreign worker does have provincial legal rights (under the Employment Standards Act) and federal rights (under the CIC regulations), the catch-22 is that as soon as a complaint is made, the foreign national loses the employment specific to the work permit and hence loses the right to work and stay in Canada. Although there may be a humanitarian and compassionate application available, that alone can take years to resolve and all the while the foreign worker suffers, emotionally, financially and legally.

This worker abuse problem is one that CIC must address – there should be a special option for such workers who have been abused (and the same is documented) which allows the foreign national to obtain immediate, unrestricted employment with another employer and not jeopardize work history or present work status in Canada and not be prejudiced by acts beyond their control.

Hopefully, this remedy will be something that the new government will consider on an urgent basis.

An Associate of

Crease Harman LLP