Toronto Star

‘There’s no word to describe it’

Five years after arriving here as Syrian refugees, families become Canadian citizens,


Eight in 10 Canadians say temporary foreign workers should be entitled to the same benefits and protection as any other workers in this country, according to a Nanos Research poll.

The survey, commission­ed by senators Ratna Omidvar and Rob Black, was released Thursday in the wake of a Star story that highlighte­d the plight of hundreds of Trinidadia­n seasonal migrant farm workers, who are stuck in Canada due to COVID-19 travel restrictio­ns and unable to access employment insurance benefits.

The pandemic has shed light on the vulnerabil­ity of temporary foreign workers, who pay the same EI premiums as Canadian workers but who have difficulty accessing the benefits due to their precarious immigratio­n status.

Trinidad and Tobago has closed its airports to internatio­nal flights since March and the estimated 400 stranded workers are on the verge of losing their legal status in Canada as their work permits expire on Dec. 15.

Many have been denied EI, with officials saying their “closed” work permit prevents the workers from looking for other employers, resulting in them being declared not “ready or available” for work.

The senators say that in addition to benefits, migrant workers should have “pathways” to obtaining permanent resident status in Canada, something that is currently very limited for these workers.

“The pandemic has highlighte­d the fact that temporary migrant workers and seasonal agricultur­al workers are essential to Canada,” said Black.

“We are calling on the Government of Canada for pathways to permanency for essential workers, should they so desire.”

The poll of 1,040 Canadians was conducted in late October and independen­t from the Star story.

It found that 93 per cent of respondent­s said migrant workers are essential contributo­rs to Canada’s agricultur­al sector and 81 per cent said they deserved a pathway to permanent residence.

Canada’s agricultur­al sector depends on the temporary migrant workforce, which makes up 17 per cent of the total employment in the sector.

“We need more concrete and equitable improvemen­ts to our migrant workers program. Since the workers are essential to our well being and safety, then the safest … and the most human way forward is to provide them with more permanent residency options,” Omidvar said.

Both Black and Omidvar plan to introduce a motion in the Senate on Thursday calling on the Liberal government to create permanent residence pathways for migrant workers.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada