Toronto, Ontario and Calgary, Alberta, July 4, 2012—The Government of Canada is taking action to protect vulnerable foreign workers from the risk of abuse and exploitation in sex trade related businesses. Significant new measures were announced today by the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, and the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.
“Our government is committed to protecting all workers from abuse, exploitation and demeaning work,” said Minister Finley. “Through collaborative partnerships and preventative action, these new measures will further strengthen Canada's National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, which was launched in early June.”
Foreign nationals brought to Canada to work in sex trade related businesses are particularly at risk of being exploited or abused. Denying these businesses access to temporary foreign workers will help protect vulnerable individuals by keeping them out of these types of situations.
“Canadians want an immigration system that is open and fair—they do not want a system that can be used to exploit people,” said Minister Kenney. “Canadians have told us they want to put a stop to foreign workers entering Canada to work in businesses where there are reasonable grounds to suspect a risk of sexual exploitation. The Government has listened and acted.”
Effective immediately, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada will issue negative Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) for all applications from employers linked to the sex trade, effectively preventing them from hiring temporary foreign workers. Also, as of July 14th, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will no longer process new work permit applications from temporary foreign workers intending to work for sex trade related businesses—namely strip clubs, escort services and massage parlours.
In addition to businesses in those sectors, the new restrictions on LMOs will apply to other businesses linked to the sex trade, particularly if there is a heightened risk of abuse or exploitation of workers.
Future actions, including regulatory changes, are under development as part of the Government’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.
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Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) jointly manage the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) under the authority of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
The TFWP is driven by employer demand; it enables employers to hire foreign workers on a temporary basis to fill short-term skills and labour needs when Canadians or permanent residents are not available. The Program includes the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program and the Live-in Caregiver Program.
The TFWP is responsive to economic and labour force changes, while at the same time ensuring that the hiring of a temporary foreign worker will not have a negative impact on Canada’s job market.
The Government of Canada works to ensure that the employment of foreign workers supports economic growth and helps create more opportunities for all Canadians.
Measures to protect temporary foreign workers
The TFWP already has a number of provisions to ensure the well-being of temporary foreign workers during their stay in Canada. For example, workers sign contracts, are registered with the Workers’ Compensation Board and receive private or public health care coverage.
While in Canada, temporary foreign workers also have the same rights and protections as Canadian workers under applicable federal/provincial employment standards and labour laws, and are paid at the same rate that a Canadian worker would be for the same job.
Also, on April 1, 2011, the Government of Canada introduced a series of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations to strengthen the protection of temporary foreign workers and improve the integrity of the TFWP. These changes ensure that job offers are genuine and that employers who don’t pay proper wages and provide working conditions consistent with Canadian standards are stopped from hiring temporary foreign workers for two years.
The provinces and territories have primary responsibility for establishing and enforcing health and labour standards, such as safe working conditions, for all workers, including temporary foreign workers.
In addition to the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, our government is working to strengthen the TFWP through improved worker protections, new measures that both track employer compliance and identify high-risk employers, and expand employer monitoring activities, including for the Live-in Caregiver Program.
These new measures also include preventing sex trade related businesses from accessing the TFWP to better protect vulnerable persons who are at risk of being trafficked into Canada for exploitation.
For more information on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, visit www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/workplaceskills/foreign_workers/index.shtml.
For more information on Canada's National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, visit www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/le/ht-tp-eng.aspx.