Letter to the editor 2, April 1, 2021
Foreign workers remain vulnerable
I have learned from last week's The Journal that our local MP, Peter Schiefke, has been named Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
In your article, Mr. Schiefke emphasized the crucial role of the contribution to Canadian agriculture that is made by foreign workers who come to Canada under the Temporary Workers Program. As has been highlighted by Canadian media reports on the deplorable working and living conditions suffered by some of these workers, there is a pressing need for the Temporary Workers Program to be reformed.
While the federal government has taken some steps to respond to calls for reform from migrant workers' advocates, the basic situation of workers' vulnerability still remains. As a next step, the government should respond to the petition initiated by the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and signed by 400 Canadian organizations, including the National Farmers Union, by granting full and immediate permanent residence status to these essential workers. This does not mean that they would necessarily choose to reside with their families in Canada. What it does mean is that they would have the same rights as other Canadian workers, including the rights to change their workplace, to healthcare and adequate housing, to receive the benefits arising from the social programs that they already pay into, to be supplied with proper protection equipment when using dangerous chemicals, etc. Some of these rights exist already, but, because of their complete dependence, many workers are hesitant to insist upon them when they are faced with a negligent employer.
Additionally, the Canadian government should give full recognition to the new United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (the definition of peasants encompasses small and medium family farmers) (UNDROP), which includes the rights of farm workers to health and security at work, to adequate housing, and, very importantly, to participate in the development and implementation of the policies and programs directly affecting them.
The government has taken a first step in this latter direction by including the farm workers themselves in its consultations on new federal standards for on-farm housing for temporary workers. I hope that Mr. Schiefke will be able to contribute to more advances and, in particular, to the granting of full and permanent immigration status for temporary farm workers in Canada.
A thank you to Mr. Schiefke for the good work that he does for his constituents.