What are my rights as a Temporary Foreign Worker in Canada?
Canada’s human rights policies are expansive, even extending to foreign nationals who have temporarily come to work in the country.
Under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), and the International Mobility Program (IMP)—the two main paths for foreign workers to work in Canada—foreign nationals working in Canada are given the same rights and protections as citizens and permanent residents.
These rights are protected under force of law, meaning that if you are a foreign worker, your employer must adhere to the protections set forth by the TFWP and IMP, or face legal repercussions.
What are my rights as a temporary foreign worker?
Foreign worker rights can be broken down into: what employers must do to comply to program and legal standards; and what employers must NOT do, to comply.
What must my employer do in accordance with my rights?
According to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), your employer must:
- Give you information about your rights;
- Give you a signed copy of your employment agreement before or on the first day of work;
- Pay for your work as stated in your employment agreement. If your agreement includes overtime, employers must honor this as well;
- Take reasonable efforts to provide you with a workplace free of abuse, (including reprisals);
- Follow the employment and recruitment standards of the province or territory in which you are working; and
- Train you to do your job safely, including how to safely operate any equipment or machinery—including providing supply and training of protective equipment;
- Take reasonable action to give you access to healthcare if you are injured, or become ill at the workplace; and
- Provide reasonable healthcare services if you are injured or become ill at the workplace.
What must my employer not do, in accordance with my rights?
Similar to what employers must do under the TFWP and IMP, they are also required not to do certain things; for example, your employer cannot:
- Force you to perform unsafe work, or work that your employment agreement does not authorize you to do;
- Force you to work if you are sick or injured;
- Pressure or force you to work overtime not included in your employment agreement;
- Punish you for reporting mistreatment, unsafe work, inadequate housing, or for cooperating with an inspection conducted by a government employee;
- Take your passport away from you;
- Deport you from Canada or change your immigration status; or
- Make you reimburse recruitment-related fees they may have paid to hire you.
What happens if my employer is non-compliant?
If your employer is found non-compliant with the standards of the TFWP or IMP, they will face legal repercussions. If your employer is found guilty of a violation after December 1st, 2015, they will:
- Be given a warning from IRCC;
- Receive penalties of up to $100,000 per violation, to a maximum of $1 million a year;
- Have their company name and address published on the IRCC website, with details of the violation and consequences;
- Suspension or revocation of previously issued Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs). An LMIA is the Canadian government’s internal assessment to determine what effect the hiring of a foreign worker will have on the Canadian labour market. It is required before the hiring of a foreign worker in Canada; and
- Be removed with the inability to rejoin the TFWP or IMP.
How do I report non-compliance from my employer?
If your employer is found non-compliant you should report them to the proper authorities.
You can contact Service Canada through their tip line: +1-866-602-9448. This is a confidential service that can be availed in over 200 languages, made for foreign worker support. There is a similar online form that can be filled out.
In addition, there are various support organizations for migrant workers in Canada:
- Workers in British Columbia workers can contact Community Airport Newcomers Network or MOSAIC;
- Workers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba can contact the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society through their TFW Hub or Community Support Services;
- Workers in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island can contact KAIROS Canada; and
- Workers in Quebec may contact Travailleurs Etrangers Temporaires.
Temporary foreign workers can also report other problems with their employers to IRCC (outside the scope of the TFWP or IMP), should the need arise.
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