On Wednesday April 1, Operational Bulletin 275-C will come into effect, resulting in a mass deportation of temporary foreign workers in Canada.
The 275-C was implemented on April 1, 2011, and has been coined the “four in four out”, or “four and four” policy because it mandates that any temporary foreign worker (TFW) who is being employed in Canada must leave the country after four years of work and bars them from reentering Canada for another four years. After the four-year barrier, a worker can reapply for a four-year work permit in Canada.
The program changes are being poised as an opportunity to extend jobs to Canadian workers. In June, former Minister of Employment Jason Kenney tweeted that, “Recent studies suggest that over-reliance on low-skilled TFWs in certain sectors & regions have caused discrete labour market distortions.”
The changes to the TFW program leave temporary foreign workers without the ability to immediately reapply for work with their previous employer, instead, in order to meet the TFW eligibility requirements, one must be able to prove that they have lived outside of Canada for four years, or have been living in Canada as a student or visitor without employment.
“TFWs occupy all sorts of industries and skill levels. Common examples are agriculture, care giving, food service, hospitality, meatpacking, cleaning, and oil sands development,” said Prof. Janet McLaughlin, co-founder of the Migrant Worker Health Project, “but temporary foreign workers can also be found in so-called high skilled occupations like engineering, banking/finance and even academia.”
Ontario currently does not have any processes in place to allow TFWs to transition from temporary status towards Canadian citizenship.
“Most TFWs do not qualify under our immigration system as potential immigrants. The immigration system is based on a point system, with points gained for things like education level and fluency in English and French…It’s not surprising, then, that most TFWs, especially those considered low-skilled (and with low levels of education), do not have enough points to qualify,” explained Prof. McLaughlin. “Many advocates suggest that all TFWs should have a pathway to citizenship, with the rationale being that if workers are considered needed for the economy, that they should be valued and welcomed as immigrants, not only as temporary guests. The Conservative government has so far resisted this idea.”
On April 1, Sanctuary City Hamilton will be hosting a “day of action” against the four and four policy by hosting a protest outside of the city’s Citizen and Immigration Office. The day of action is affiliated with the No4and4 campaign, as well as a Change.ca petition.
The event’s Facebook page explains, “Migrant workers pay tens of thousands of dollars to come to Canada and work at minimum wage jobs to provide an opportunity for their family; so that their children can go to school; and to have a better life. The 4 & 4 rule strips away migrant workers’ dignity, forces workers already in precarity into further uncertainty, and imposes discriminatory and arbitrary barriers on how long workers can stay here.”
“The clock on this started running in April 2011 and the first group of workers, almost 70,000, will face loss of status as of April 1st 2015,” said Caitlin Craven of the Hamilton Sanctuary City Coalition.
According to Craven, uprooting TFWs will likely make working conditions more “precarious” for all workers in Canada.
“Four year limits only further restrict permanent immigration and reinforce the revolving door of temporary migration we have seen growing in the past decades,” Craven explained. “Having a temporary workforce like this only benefits employers who have no incentive to hire Canadian workers, and can simply replace those foreign workers who are forced to leave with others. It also makes it even harder for workers to organize and challenge bad working conditions and low pay.”
“The Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been seriously and appreciably mismanaged by the Conservatives,” said Marc Laferriere, Brant-Brantford Federal NDP candidate. According to Laferriere, the TFW program has worked to driving down wages in Canada and has made the government “drop the ball” on opportunities to train unemployed Canadians for jobs held by TFWs.
“It won’t be Canadian citizens getting those jobs,” said Laferriere. “Instead new temporary workers will be brought in.”
“In some sectors of our work force, there is a huge work demand that is filled by temporary foreign workers, some of whom have gained the confidence and friendship of their employers, said Danielle Takacs, Brantford-Brant Liberal candidate. “Their families in their native country often depend on this income to help aid their aging parents or keep children in school and away from child labour.”
“We believe that the program must be returned to its original purpose of filling jobs when qualified Canadians cannot be found and that more pathways to citizenship should be created for foreign workers,” said Takacs.
According to Prof. McLaughlin the implementation of this policy will likely force many workers to stay in Canada and work under the table, creating an “underclass of vulnerable and exploitable workers who do not have the same rights and protections because they are working underground and hiding from authorities.”
“Many people without status are afraid to access basic services like health care, education or law enforcement because of fear of detection,” explained Prof. McLaughlin.“This can have dire consequences, for example, a worker’s child not receiving education, someone afraid to access necessary health care, or a woman who is afraid to report a violent encounter to authorities for fear of deportation.”