B.C. report finds temporary foreign workers suffer ‘troubling’ abuse
March 25, 2022
By Vancouver Sun |
Temporary foreign workers in British Columbia who try to escape abusive workplaces face barriers in accessing legal assistance, translation services and overcoming the biases of immigration officers who investigate their complaints, according to a new report.
The Migrant Workers Centre, a Vancouver-based non-profit group, examined 30 investigations by immigration officers into allegations made by migrant workers in B.C. and found what it calls “a troubling narrative.”
“It shows a lack of understanding of the vulnerability of migrant workers who are here and who are trying to gain authorization to work in Canada,” said Amanda Aziz, an immigration lawyer and the report’s author.
Most of the cases involved financial abuse including unpaid wages, unpaid overtime, excessive work hours and in some cases, workers being forced to pay back wages to employers.
“We saw some situations where employers were authorized (under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program) to pay $20 an hour but told the worker they would only pay them $16 an hour,” said Aziz. “But in order to show they were complying with their obligations, the employers would pay the workers $20 and the workers would have to repay $4 an hour to the employer.”
She said investigators often lacked insight into what constitutes abuse or made unsubstantiated judgments about the worker that resulted in rejected applications.
“Officers were categorizing workers in that there were those that fit the ideal idea of what a vulnerable worker looked like and others who didn’t fit that mould, couldn’t possibly be vulnerable.”
Another “troubling finding” is that investigators do not acknowledge that charging people a fee to be guaranteed a job is illegal.
“It was pretty obvious in some cases, there was collusion between an immigration consultant and an employer,” Aziz said.
“One worker was told the cost to get work in Canada was $40,000, which he paid to an immigration consultant. But when the worker arrived in Canada, there was no job. The employer told the worker that they had not received their portion of the money from the immigration consultant so there was no job.”