In Light of a Sexual Harassment Case, Citizenship and Immigration Canada Has Come under Fire for “Exploitative” Temporary Foreign Worker Program
A recent human rights and sexual harassment case may have served to further highlight the potential flaws in Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, or TFWP. In April of 2011, Government of Canada immigration officials instituted the new TFWP, which included the controversial “four in, four out” policy. This meant that employees hired from outside of Canada through the program were tied to their job, and that after working for four years, they would be barred from re-entry for four additional years. The program was instituted on the pretext of putting Canadian citizens first in the job market, but it has drawn criticisms for creating a “revolving door,” allowing employers to exploit foreign workers while simultaneously denying jobs to residents.
Now that two women have had their work permits revoked after refusing the sexual advances of their employer, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has drawn renewed criticism for the program, which many see as creating a dangerous number of opportunities for abuse of authority and exploitation of workers. Because temporary foreign workers hired through the program are dependent entirely on their employer, and because cases of harassment and abuse aren’t always easy to prove, this has created the potential for extreme power imbalances between workers and their employers.
In the case of the two women, who have remained unidentified (as has their employer), they were allowed to re-enter Canada as permanent residents and awarded settlements after a tribunal had determined that their basic rights had been violated. In his judgment, adjudicator Mark Hart wrote that, “As a result of the nature of the temporary foreign worker programs in Canada, MPT worked under the ever-present threat of being sent back to Mexico if she did not do what she was told, which was made explicit to her by the [employer] and which ultimately was acted on by him in a discriminatory manner… migrant workers […] live under the ever-present threat of having their designated employer decide to end the employment relations for which they require no reason and for which there is no appeal or review.”
Despite these criticisms of Canada’s immigration reforms, the Canadian government stands by them, claiming that they ensure that Canadians come first when jobs are available. As a counterpoint, the union that led the human rights case involving the unidentified women claim that this method of immigration into Canada is failing to protect the rights of foreign workers that it allows in Canada.