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How do Canada’s unions support migrant workers?

Migrant workers come to Canada with a hope of earning a better future for themselves and their families. They work harvesting our fruits and vegetables, caring for our children and elderly relatives, and cleaning our restaurants. They pay income taxes, and contribute to EI and CPP. But those coming through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) – 91,211 people in 2015 – do not receive the same rights or protections as other workers in Canada.

Low-wage TFWP migrants are tied to one employer, which makes them isolated and vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. They face painful separation from their families, which sometimes lasts several years.

Canada’s unions believe that no matter where you’re from, if you work in Canada, you should be treated fairly. For migrant workers, that means legislation to ensure the same basic labour and human rights as other Canadian workers. It means a system to protect those rights. It means a pathway to permanent residency for those who want to stay.

Canada’s unions collaborate with many migrant worker groups across the country, including Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, Migrante Canada, and L’association des travailleurs et travailleuse étrangère (ATTET). Through these groups, unions support policy change as well as community-based initiatives that empower migrant workers to know and stand up for their rights.

Migrant caregivers – who take care of Canadian children, aging loved ones and people with severe disabilities – are a group of workers with unique challenges. Although they can no longer be forced to live in the homes of their employers, they must put up with low wages, isolation and sometimes dangerous working conditions for two years before they can apply for the right to stay in Canada.

Canadian unions have been working with domestic workers’ groups for years to advocate for a pathway to permanent residency on arrival, better laws to prevent exploitation, and access to skills training for these workers.

Ensuring fair treatment. For Canada’s unions, it’s a labour of love.

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