Workers harvest grapes at a farm. File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / gina_sanders. Workers harvest grapes at a farm. File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / gina_sanders.

New rules to protect migrant workers from abuse

Following years of complaints that migrant workers were susceptible to mistreatment by their employers, the federal government is making changes to protect them.

Among those changes, reprisals against workers who file a complaint against their employer will be prohibited. Companies will be mandated to provide reasonable access to healthcare and inform workers about their rights in Canada. Amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations also ban recruitment fees.

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough, and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marco Mendicino, have announced the changes on Monday.

When a migrant worker calls the Temporary Foreign Worker tip line, live agents capable of providing service in multiple languages will pick up the phone.

Since its launch in March, the tip line has assisted more than 400 callers.

New applications to the Temporary Foreign Worker program will undergo greater scrutiny, and new features on Job Bank will help workers connect with eligible companies through a trusted source.

This year's federal budget included $54.9-million over three years to include inspections ensuring workers have appropriate working conditions and wages. The new regiment reduces prescribed times for those inspections, and third parties, like banks and payroll companies, will provide documents better identifying fraud and misrepresentation.

The budget also included $49.5-million over three years to support community-based organizations that provide services like on-arrival orientation and assistance in emergency and at-risk situations. The $35-million Emergency On-Farm Support Fund helps employers upgrade and improve living quarters.

Between 50,000 and 60,000 foreign agricultural workers arrive in Canada yearly to work. Around 60 per cent come through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Most, 43 percent, are employed in Ontario.

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