Another look at Temporary Foreign Worker Programs in Canada

NOTES on the Inverted Pyramid of TFWPs in Canada: Expressions of Labour Segmentation and Global Apartheid

© Evelyn Encalada Grez created for HREQ 3485: Migrant Workers and Human Rights course, York University, October 2010

This inverted pyramid is a very general overview of TFWPs in Canada according to the available information on Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.  It is grouped according to precarity with the first bar representing the most precarious and vulnerable segment. However, it is difficult neatly group these programs according into any particular logic. Firstly, rules and regulations of these programs change and differ across Canada. Secondly, these programs are subject to diverse jurisdictions not only within but also outside of Canada. Thirdly, there are few government data available to properly assess these programs. The majority of the time, workers, community groups and community researchers have to navigate and make sense of webs of these programs when all goes wrong in the lives of workers and their families.  Nevertheless the inverted pyramid shows the hierarchy among temporary foreign workers. In this class we have focussed on the most precarious temporary foreign workers/migrant workers which are highlighted at the top as being the most vulnerable.

There are various factors that influence precarity and vulnerability such as living in the city versus living in the countryside, speaking English and or French versus not knowing any of the official languages. Then we could add the sleuth of “systems of oppression” that impact every individual differently.  These systems are intersectional and therefore known as “interlocking systems of oppression” that reinforce one another and decisively impact on the ways individuals experience living and working in Canada as temporary foreign workers/migrant workers. Race, gender, class, immigration status, disability and so forth have tangible consequences for migrant workers in Canada that determines who gets in the country to begin with, how they are treated and what kind of work they perform and who gets to stay.

Racialized workers from the Third World are overly represented in farm work where race and class figure  prominently. Farm work does not offer a pathway for full status, residency and settlement in Canada. Is this a coincidence? How does this relate to Canada’s “white settler” colonial mentality? How does the concept of global apartheid express itself in these programs?

Alberta offers some pathways for settlement under the Provincial Nominee Program for specific low skill workers in the NOC C and D albeit with many restrictions but none for workers in farm work.  The NOC stand for the National Occupational Classification is a listing of occupations that was mapped by HRDSC for labour market regulation and planning. Through the NOC occupations are deemed skilled or non-skilled and these classifications are now determining who merits to work and live in Canada.  What is the effect of deskilling have on racialized migrant workers?

The Film and Entertainment category includes millionaire film producers who do not need a permit to work in Canada to migrant exotic dancers who can find themselves in highly exploitative living and working conditions as temporary foreign workers. Exotic dancer visas have dwindled over the years but many racialized women with precarious immigration status find themselves working in this industry.

The Live-in-Care-Giver Program (LCP) and the Seasonal Agricultural Workers (SAWP) are known as the flagship foreign worker programs yet each functions according to their own rules and regulations. The LCP offers a pathway to residency since it has been a long hard fought battle among workers themselves while the SAWP does not. Both programs are highly gendered with former employing mostly men and the latter mostly women.  The LCPs have to know either English or French, many having nursing degrees and have to fulfill certain requirements to apply as permanent residents. Why are workers in the SAWP still denied full status?

Canada is bringing in more migrant workers through TFWPs than it is allowing immigrants into the country to settle permanently as full status citizens. In this way Canada is creating a permanently temporary class of disposable workers—disposable peoples—to subsidize the economy, maintain privileges and to even meet the nations’ pleasures.

Source: http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/workplaceskills/foreign_workers/occspec.shtml

Click on the pyramid below to enlarge:


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