Canada’s Liberal Party Proposes Complaint, Audit System For Foreign Workers

As Canadian Employment Minister Jason Kenney considers major changes to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program, the opposition Liberal Party has put forward its own plan for reforming the troubled program.

Liberal immigration critic John McCallum filed a motion in parliament that, according to the Liberals, is designed to make the TFW program more transparent and accountable.

There are five key elements in the proposed Liberal plan for reforming the TFW program:

  • Establishing a mandatory complaint tracking system
  • Ensuring compulsory and regular workplace audits
  • Requiring mandatory disclosure of investigations into abuses of the TFW program
  • Establishing a monthly disclosure system indicating the number of foreign workers by region, as well as their fields of occupation and their employers

The TFW program has received a great deal of national attention over the last several weeks after a number of high profile allegations of worker abuse emerged involving large fast food chains, including McDonald’s and Tim Hortons Donuts.

In the wake of those allegations, federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney placed a freeze on any new TFW visas for Canada’s food service sector. Still, there has been fierce debate both within and outside of parliament over the future of the TFW program.

Recent parliamentary exchanges between the governing Conservative Party and opposition Liberal members have become quite heated, with the Liberals accusing the government of being unwilling to note and punish employers who have allegedly engaged in foreign worker abuse.

Liberal immigration critic John McCallum, who presented his party’s motionfor reforming the TFW program, accused the government of having “zero employers on the (government) list” of those accused of foreign worker abuse. Immigration Minister Chris Alexander refuted that charge, and added that in addition to the food sector work visa moratorium, “other (TFW) investigations are underway.”

Questions have also emerged over how complaints of abuse by foreign workers are tracked or processed. An investigation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) found that temporary foreign workers filed at least 250 complaints in 2013, but that the problem of worker abuse may be far more pervasive.

According to the CBC, it is virtually impossible to be certain just how widespread foreign worker abuse is within Canada.

One main deterrent to understanding the scope of the worker abuse, says the CBC report, remains the fact that only three of Canada’s ten provinces—Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland—routinely track migrant worker complaints.