Study No. 26


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Evidence indicates that many migrant farm workers have unique experiences of social exclusion and unequal treatment. Another common indicator employed by both researchers and policy-makers to measure integration is language knowledge: in particular, proficiency in English or French. For migrant workers, language training is not typically available or funded, restrictions on work permits do not allow migrant workers to take formal classes or enrol in education programs, and in most cases language training would not be feasible due to work schedules and transportation limitations.

In addition, since these workers have lower levels of education than the majority of Canadian immigrants, they face even greater challenges to learning English or French on the job. However, workers surveyed in Ontario certainly have the desire to learn English Hennebry, Preibisch, and McLaughlin Temporary migrants may require the development of specialized or targeted integration policies.

One implication is that when workers have grievances, they may not know where they should be going to address them. Further, even if temporary migrant workers are granted equal rights on paper, they still face practical barriers because of inadequate language skills, imperfect or misleading information given by employers, lack of access to permanent residency, restrictions on work permits, and so on Nakache and Kinoshita It will likely become increasingly important to theoretically redefine and practically implement new approaches to integration that reflect the realities of growing numbers of temporary migrants in Canada.

By way of rethinking and operationalizing the concept of integration for temporary foreign workers, Table 3 lists potential indicators of integration that could be applied to temporary labour migrants. Because integration is a process that does not necessarily follow a linear trajectory, with citizenship as the final outcome, these indicators have been calibrated into a cumulative measurement scale, developed by the author for this study. The Labour Migrant Integration Scale is intended to capture the practical and policy-level processes that are important to economic, social and political aspects of integration.

If no steps toward an integration indicator have been taken, either in policy or in practice, its score is 0. If an indicator is only initially or partly realized — for instance, it is stipulated in policy or through a legal framework, but is not in practice — or it has yet to be recognized officially but steps have been taken in practice, it gets 1 point. If important steps toward realizing an indicator have occurred and it has also been officially recognized through legal or policy frameworks, but it is still not fully and completely realized, it gets 2 points.

If the indicator has been fully realized in policy and in practice, its score is 3 points. The scale can be applied to specific categories of temporary migrants and could also be applied to other countries with comparable temporary migration programs.

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An important first indicator of integration is the extent to which migrant farm workers have their human rights protected under national rights frameworks. In Canada, fully realizing the protection of migrant workers under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and provincial human rights codes or the equivalent would mean a number of changes to the current practices in the management of the SAWP. For example, it would involve the cessation of hiring practices that allow selection of workers on the basis of gender and country of origin or race.

Also, uniquely important for this group is the protection of their human rights with respect to exploitation, trafficking and abuse by unscrupulous recruiters and employers. As previously discussed, Canada does not currently have a federal-level policy framework that addresses this need specifically.

Concepts of Integration

Labour rights and workplace regimes consistent with those of Canadian residents would mean workplaces are not segregated by race or migration status; accessible health and safety protections and training are provided to workers; workers cannot lose their employment and be removed from the country without recourse; and migrant farm workers are not exempt from the right to form a union, for example.

Lack of funding to settlement service providers, health care providers and other community services that would support temporary migrants such as translation services and language training further limits access for this group. Improving mobility rights — that is, securing the freedom to enter and exit Canada, and the right to move across provinces while in Canada — would be an important step toward integration for all temporary migrants.

Restrictive work permits typically prohibit them from returning home to visit family while working in Canada, as well as from visiting friends or relatives or seeking work in other provinces. Migrant farm workers lack freedom of employment since the validity of their work permit is tied to one employer and refusal to work can mean repatriation particularly for SAWP migrants.

In addition, lack of access to permanent residency for these migrants is by its very nature a clear indicator of the low level of integration of migrant farm workers. Another important indicator of integration is the extent to which migrant farm workers are engaged with Canadian society and the communities in which they live and work. Measures of this involvement include the frequency and quality of community interactions and the relationships that migrants have with residents, both within the workplace and outside of work.

Migrant farm workers in Canada work long hours and face communication and transportation barriers, so their interaction with Canadian communities is typically limited to weekly shopping excursions. But many important integration initiatives aimed at building sustained connections have begun, particularly through churches and community groups. Migrant farm workers still experience social exclusion and discrimination, and there remains much more that can be done to make communities more welcoming to migrant farm workers.

With respect to political enfranchisement and participation, there are obvious barriers to full integration — most notably, that migrant farm workers do not have the right to vote. In recent years, some migrant farm workers have become more politically active bolstered by the efforts of activist and labour groups , but they continue to face barriers to political engagement, such as work schedules, communication and transportation constraints and precarious employment and migration status.

Moreover, farm workers do not have the right to collective bargaining in all provinces; farm workers in Ontario and Alberta are excluded from these rights, and in other provinces workers sometimes face pressures not to join unions. In summary, Canada does not score particularly high 6. Armony, Barriga, and Schugurensky find that impediments to integration for permanent immigrants include language, time, resources and cultural gaps, as well as systemic discrimination in a host country.

For all temporary migrant workers, these impediments clearly exist, but they are almost secondary considerations when compared with the greater challenges faced by lower-skilled migrant workers, and by migrant farm workers in particular. Box 1 summarizes some of the most significant factors that impede integration for migrant farm workers in Canada. The lofty goals of integration and social cohesion Jeannotte ; Soroka, Johnston, and Banting have long been cornerstones of Canadian multiculturalism policy, from which numerous laudable integration initiatives and settlement programs have emerged.

But the pattern for temporary migrants is quite different, as was shown previously; about half of temporary migrant workers and the majority of farm workers head to areas outside large urban centres. Yet there may be an opportunity for these communities to develop more tailored services and initiatives in response to the distinct needs of temporary or circular migrants, more so than is feasible in large urban centres.

There is much to learn from the initiatives discussed earlier in this study, particularly with respect to rethinking the scope and provision models of integration initiatives and other services. Canada has yet to develop a comprehensive integration policy directed at temporary migrant workers that recognizes the transnational nuances of contemporary migration systems, particularly for circular and two-step migrants whose relationship to Canada is far from temporary.


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For Canada, the impacts of temporary migration are also likely to be far more permanent than expected. If growing numbers of temporary migrants in Canada continue to lack full social inclusion and equality, both factors that are considered essential to social cohesion Jeannotte , are we not undermining Canadian multiculturalism?

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In fact, with the introduction of the LSPP, many of these so-called best practices were not carried over to the LSPP such as sendingcountry involvement , arguably a step backward for the rights and freedoms of lower-skilled migrants. Partly in response to these concerns, changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations that came into effect on April 1, , make some steps toward improving the regulatory framework of the TFWP. Unfortunately, not all employers will undergo a compliance review, and the system is still largely complaints-based.

Regulatory improvements are often slow to come at the federal level, but a number of policy and program changes both smalland large-scale can be implemented at different levels of government to make significant progress toward integration.


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  • Clearly, not all of these changes can come at once, nor can they be shouldered by any one level of government. At the federal level, one important step that would protect the human rights of these migrants would be to end hiring on the basis of country of origin and gender. In practice, this would involve changing the worker selection system in conjunction with sending countries an arrangement that could be negotiated at annual meetings where wages and contracts are determined to provide employers with information on the work histories and skills of individual applicants, rather than simply a roster of interchangeable Mexican or Jamaican workers in the SAWP, for example.

    These negotiations should involve participation from all relevant parties — including workers. Additionally, for a federal-level regulatory mechanism to address the human rights of temporary migrants, it must also address recruitment practices; the licensing model introduced by Manitoba should be considered. Also important to enhancing integration for this group are greater mobility rights and greater control over work assignments.

    Migrant workers, particularly in the SAWP, could be given more information about their potential employers and could have greater autonomy to apply to work with particular employers or in specific geographic areas and types of agricultural employment. In addition, workers could be given multiple-entry visas, which would allow them to return home to visit families, particularly when there are medical or other family emergencies. These provisions would also need to be coupled with job-security mechanisms such as an independent appeals process that ensure that workers would not lose their current or future employment for wanting their families to visit or for choosing to return home at any point in the contract for a maximum vacation period e.

    go In order to further remove employer control over temporary migrants, it is particularly important that work permits not be tied to specific employers and that mechanisms be in place to allow migrants to refuse work and find alternative employment without risking repatriation. Following the model used with the Live-in Caregiver Program, for example, migrant farm workers could be eligible for residency upon completion of a set number of hours of work in agriculture roughly equivalent to 24 months, which would not have to be in succession or with the same employer.

    These work hours could be checked through tax records and would not require employer verification. Workers would better understand and assert their rights, and access their benefits, if they received comprehensive rights information packages and information sessions upon arrival in Canada or before leaving home. The costs could be partly covered by employers through the LMO application process, with a designated fee for each worker position, and matched with federal funding. Similarly, cultural sensitivity training and information packages pertaining to migrant workers can be provided to employers as well, by provincial agencies such as the Ontario Ministry of Labour or the Workplace Safety Insurance Board.

    Temporary migrants should have full access to social and medical services and benefits, including EI benefits. Recently, the Mowat Centre released its report on EI reform after nearly two years of research and deliberations. Workers should be granted access to provincial health care and insurance systems upon arrival, and steps must be taken to limit employer mediation. In addition, health services, hospitals and particularly community health centres must aim to address the unique needs of this population, beginning with information sessions on health and safety issues and the health care and compensation systems directed at health care practitioners, employers and workers.

    Improved communication and transportation is especially important to this group of migrants, since they typically live and work in rural areas, without easy access to telephones or transportation. These provisions could be put in place with minimal cost, and partial reimbursement could be applied for through HRSDC or industry groups. Further, vehicle safety and appropriate licensing must be ensured through more rigorous inspection and regulation — something that could have aided in the prevention of the deaths of migrant farm workers in BC in March , and the recent deaths of 10 migrant farm workers near Hampstead, Ontario, among others.

    Requirements for more frequent inspections while workers are on site not solely before their arrival , as well as more specific and robust regulation including federal guidelines and provincial standards that must be met and maintained by employers, could be built into LMO requirements. Finally, if integration of migrant farm workers is to be achieved in local communities across Canada, it is vital that they be eligible for immigrant and settlement services, in particular language training and translation services, and that these services be funded through existing structures for newcomers in Canada e.

    Permanent supports need to be provided for these temporary and circular migrants while in Canada, or communities will suffer greater inequality and conflict, seriously challenging social cohesion. Building on the existing regional or municipal integration initiatives such as those in Bradford, Ontario aimed at outreach to this group and raising awareness in the community particularly in small towns and rural areas will significantly reduce conflict and promote cultural exchange.

    Policy and program changes such as those proposed above, which involve all levels of government, as well as civil society, can be implemented over time. It is time for permanent improvements to this program, or the consequences for migrant workers and for Canadian communities will be far from temporary. Human Services. Alberta Federation of Labour.

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