Advocates ask Quebec to protect temporary foreign workers

WATCH ABOVE: Quebecers are fighting to protect foreign workers’ rights, making sure they don’t get left behind during Ottawa’s labour reform. Rachel Lau reports.

MONTREAL – When temporary foreign workers come to Canada, they make many sacrifices. Many have left behind their families for the tiny wage they get for some very physical work.

Now, several groups are working together to protect these workers’ rights and make sure they don’t get left behind in Ottawa’s foreign labour reform.

“All that the federal government has done is say to hundreds of thousands of workers: ‘You will be here, stranded without legal status, without any ability to find decent work,'” said Mostafa Henaway, a community organizer for the Immigrant Workers Centre.

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It was a small gathering, no more than ten people, but each one represented hundreds of thousands of voiceless foreigners.

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“We are still working class,” said Evelyn Calugay, a representative of Pinay for Filipino Women’s Rights.

“We are still in the same conditions.”

They walked to provincial Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil‘s office in NDG in the hopes of convincing her to lobby her federal counterpart.

“Inclusion and multiculturalism means actually giving everyone an equal chance to be able to live a decent live in the society,” said Henaway.

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In June of this year, the federal government announced they were making changes to the application process for temporary workers.

Federal Minister of Employment Jason Kenney said this was to ensure Canadian workers were put first when it came to hiring.

But it makes finding work much harder for foreign workers.

“It used to be this program in Quebec just required six months of experience in Quebec before they could apply for permanent residency,” said Joey Calugay, a coordinator for the Immigrant Workers Centre.

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“In 2011, they raised it to one year. Why don’t we bring that back to six months?”

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In the letter to the Weil, the group writes “the changing nature of work reflects a growing reality of a changing economy of Quebec . . . Our laws need to reflect such changes in order to ensure that all workers enjoy equal rights and protections.”

“Migrant labour is important to us because they’re part of the working people here in Quebec,” said Calugay.

“They contribute to the economy, they can contribute to the social development of Quebec.”

Weil’s office is actually closed for the next two weeks, but these advocates said this small step is just one of many to come.