NDP MPs Call for an Inquiry into Canada’s Foreign Worker Program

OTTAWA – NDP Spokesperson for Labour, MP Libby Davies (Vancouver East), NDP Spokesperson for Immigration, MP Bill Siksay (Burnaby Douglas), and NDP Spokesperson for International Trade, MP Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster), spoke out today in solidarity with BC Federation of Labour protesters, calling for fairness and equality for workers under Canada’s Foreign Worker Program (FWP).

The legitimacy of the FWP permit process, and the program’s overall contribution to addressing and improving Canada’s skill and labour needs, are in serious doubt, and the NDP has called on the Conservative government for an immediate review of this program.

Concerns were raised earlier this summer when the BC Labour Relations Board heard complaints that at least 40 skilled foreign trades people, working on Vancouver’s new rapid transit Canada Line, were brought to Canada with offers of employment that were never honoured, had their passports confiscated by their employers upon entry into Canada, and are being paid less than standard wages.

“Simply, this is exploitation of foreign workers,” said Siksay. “Skilled, hard working people are coming to Canada in good faith, and should be welcomed as equals. And we must ensure that Canadians have first crack at Canadian jobs,” he added.

The workers, most of who are from South and Latin America, were granted temporary worker visas and gained entry to Canada under Canada’s Foreign Worker Program.

“With no regulatory safeguards for the Foreign Worker Program, we are seeing more and more violations of workers’ most basic rights,” said Davies.

“Abuses of the Foreign Worker Program are lowering employment standards for all Canadians,” said Julian.

“This raises major concerns about development for the 2010 Olympic Games, and other major construction projects,” said Davies. “For the safety of foreign workers and the integrity of the program, we need an immediate and full inquiry into the Foreign Worker Program,” she added.

The federal BC MPs commended the BC Federation of Labour, the Ironworkers, the Building Trades and the BCGEU for bringing this issue to light, and for the support they are providing to the affected workers.