Petition fights ‘unjust’ migrant worker law

By Jasminee Sahoye

More than two thousand signatures have been collected and the number is growing since the federal government announced the new “four in and four out rule” which would essentially force migrant workers to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin starting on April 1.

A petition titled ‘Stop the mass deportation of thousands of immigrants on April 1’ is collecting signatures to what it describes as “this unjust law”.

The petition states: “We have read and understood the implications of this cruel program and demand that it be ended, and that thousands currently facing deportation be landed as permanent residents in Canada. Those arriving in the future must have a right to permanent status on arrival.”

On April 1, migrant workers under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and Live-In Caregivers / Caregiver Program who have worked in Canada for more than four years will not be allowed to continue working here. They will also be barred from returning to Canada as workers for a further four years.

Migrant workers have worked to sustain a number of important industries in various communities and have developed ties and a life in Canada.

The petition urges the federal government to meet the following demands: “An end to the four and four rule so migrant workers can continue to work here; grant migrant workers in Canada permanent residency; ensure migrant workers access to all social benefits and entitlements and enact legislation to grant permanent residency for all migrants upon arrival.”

Migrant workers have been coming from the Caribbean for years each year, many from Jamaica, to work on farms.

In Guelph, for example, migrant workers are employed in farming, manufacturing and food processing jobs, among others. The industries still need them as Canadian citizens have been turning down these jobs, according to representatives of a community advocacy group, Fuerza / Puwersa (strength in Spanish and Tagalog).

On March 1, 15 members of Fuerza / Puwersa went to different areas of Guelph to talk with members of the public about the pending deportation of thousands of migrant workers, many of whom work in that community.

The group told local people, “This federal policy will merely kick out people who have already worked to settle into our communities, just to bring in a new group of workers who themselves will be kicked out after four years. This policy does not get to the core of the issues surrounding temporary foreign worker programs – it merely treats these individuals as disposable.”

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, a coalition of more than 35 migrant and immigrant justice and service organizations, expects this federal policy to create a large pool of undocumented individuals, as those facing deportation lose their temporary work status in Canada while feeling the pressure to stay to continue working. This will, in effect, create a third class of workers in Canada, with undocumented workers having fewer health and safety protections and fewer civil rights.

Last Wednesday, a number of supporters of the cause picketed the constituency office of Finance Minister Joe Oliver who, according to one protestor, “closed the office instead of listening to the demands.”