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Thousands of temporary foreign workers will become undocumented on April 1, 2015


Reblog from this article by kabayan Ethel Tungohan
Thousands of temporary foreign workers will become undocumented on April 1 despite pending immigration and work extension applications. What is the Canadian government doing about this?

I just had a conversation with a Filipino temporary foreign worker, who told me a story that is similar to stories told by thousands of other folks, especially in Alberta. Like most temporary foreign workers, he came to Canada after being promised by his labor brokers and (future) employer that there is a possibility that he would be able to get permanent residency under the Alberta Immigration Nominee Program (AINP) provided that he worked hard. And work hard he did, withstanding harsh working conditions and years apart from his wife and two sons, with the hope that he can bring his family with him to Canada. After years apart, he was able to bring them with him and his employers sponsored his AINP. And then…nothing…

His work contract, like thousands of others, expires on April 1. Though he is working right now, he is aware that he has less than two weeks to receive news about his application. After April 1, he will become undocumented. Although then Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced that 1000 folks whose AINP applications are pending will be given one year extensions while they wait for their papers, no one knows what will happen to those who weren’t given extensions. Jason Kenney fired Caylan Ford recently which should allow for a bigger budget when it comes to the employment sector.

At the heart of the matter are issues of equity and belonging. Contrary to the virulently racist rhetoric scapegoating temporary foreign workers for ‘stealing’ Canadian jobs, nearly all of the temporary foreign workers who came to Canada did so while following a stringent process that guarantees that the employer made every attempt to hire Canadian workers first. While this process can and has been abused, the checks that have been put into place make sure that employers really did try to hire local workers. Talk to small business owners in big cities and small towns and they’ll say the same thing: that they’ve put job ads up for months with no responses; that the folks they have hired from their cities and towns leave after a few weeks; that problems of declining populations (especially true in small towns) mean that there simply aren’t workers. Consider also the jobs that most temporary foreign workers do: many work in the food and hospitality industries and do jobs that a lot of Canadians would deem dirty, degrading, and dangerous. And though I completely agree that better wages and better working conditions would make these jobs more attractive to Canadian workers – and thus eliminate the need to hire temporary foreign workers – the simple fact remains that even improved wages and working conditions are not enough to incentivize Canadian workers to be part of these industries.

And though I also agree that we need to further consider whether Canada should be part of a structural system facilitating the brain drain of workers from developing countries, for the moment, there are very pressing human needs that are faced by temporary foreign workers and their families. So while I will happily discuss issues of ethics and morals of labour migration, for now, we need to consider the empirical realities of how thousands of temporary foreign workers are going to be undocumented in two weeks. This not only means that they cannot work, this also means that they cannot access city services. In some municipalities that do not have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, this also means that the children of temporary foreign workers who are going to school will be asked to stop their education by April 1. So the questions we, as Canadians, need to ask ourselves are the following: is deportation really the answer? What are our obligations to temporary foreign workers who have spent years contributing socially and economically to our communities, who are effectively part of Canada, and who have come here to seek better lives? They work in jobs that Canadians do not want to do; they come here, pay taxes, and engage with their communities; they work in industries where there is a permanent and on-going need.

If you wish to discuss these issues further and you are in Alberta, consider attending the following conference:

And if you would like to support temporary foreign workers and prevent them from getting deported on April 1, please sign this petition:

Reblog from this article by kabayan Ethel Tungohan


About Ethel Tungohan, Ph.D.

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