Victoria, BC – A group of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) and their advocates held a press conference today outside of the BC Legislature in Victoria to urge the Government of British Columbia to enact new legislation to protect TFWs from abuse and exploitation by recruiters and employers in BC. Manitoba pioneered this kind of legislation in 2009.
Natalie Drolet, Executive Director of Migrant Workers Centre, continues to see cases of migrant workers who have been exploited by unscrupulous recruiters, fraudulent immigration consultants and employers. She says “the going rate being charged to TFWs by recruiters for a job in BC is now in the range of $20,000 – $30,000. This is unacceptable in BC.”
Until changes are enacted, violations will continue to be committed by recruiters and fraudulent immigration consultants. Kirby Smith, a lawyer working with TFWs in their class-action suit against their recruitment agency and Mac’s Convenience Stores, says that the “changes advocated by the Rising Up campaign are urgently needed.”
The same situation is echoed by David Fairey who is Co-Chair of the BC Employment Standards Coalition. He says that the antiquated Employment Standards Act is totally inadequate to address the special needs and protections required for TFWs, and that the Employment Standards Branch is inadequately resourced and lacks the policy direction needed to give TFWs basic enforceable rights. The BC Employment Standards Coalition has been campaigning for migrant worker recruitment and protection provisions in the Employment Standards Act for over 6 years.
Erie Maestro from Migrante BC adds that “it is appalling that the Province of British Columbia, which is the second highest receiving province for migrant workers in Canada, has either ignored or dragged its feet on the issue of protecting foreign migrant workers. We hope that the political situation is such that BC can now exercise its political will and enact legislation similar to those enacted by six other provinces, and maybe even do better.”
In 2017, there were 22,169 new positions approved for temporary foreign workers in BC.
The group called on the provincial government, which is back in session this week, to enact legislation that provides for licensing of recruiters together with a registry for employers of TFWs to allow greater control and monitoring by the provincial government. The group also called on the government to implement a pro-active enforcement regime for violations and improve access to information and advocacy for TFWs.
The Rising Up Against Unjust Recruitment coalition is made up of organizations and individuals including the Migrant Workers Centre (formerly the West Coast Domestic Workers Association), Migrante BC, BC Employment Standards Coalition, Red Legal, and MOSAIC. (Maita Santiago)