Workers have few options
Advisors expect workers to go underground
Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014 04:15 pm
St. Albert Resources
The group has created a pamphlet with information about affordable housing, medical clinics, transportation and recreational activities, which is available on the city's website at stalbert.ca.
Several of the church ministries have teamed up to offer a volunteer-run shuttle to take newcomers to Canada Place in Edmonton (first and third Tuesdays of every month) and to ethnic grocery stores Lucky Supermarket on 127 Street and T&T Supermarket on 137 Avenue (second and fourth Tuesdays).
The program is still looking for both newcomers and drivers.
Contact Grace Lumbab with Jesus Rock of Ages Ministry (780-803-7625).
For temporary foreign workers, the options for ways to stay in Canada are running out, say advisors and advocates.
With changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program already taking effect, workers have a lot of questions but their support agencies have little in the way of answers.
“On an everyday basis we see people crying, coming to us not knowing what to do,” said Zdravka Brnada, team leader with the temporary foreign workers support program at Catholic Social Services in Edmonton.
“We don’t have good information to give them. There’s not much we can do because the system is set up so they don’t have many options.”
In mid-July Brnada hosted a temporary foreign workers information session at the St. Albert Food Bank & Community Village, along with Yessy Byl, a human rights educator with the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre.
The majority of the attendees were low-skilled workers. They are scared and panic stricken by the changes, they said.
“They came in hopes – sometimes they were promised – immigration to Canada,” Byl said.
“All of the changes that have taken place over the last year have served only to make it more and more difficult, if not impossible for temporary foreign workers to immigrate.”
If you are a fast-food industry worker and your permit is expiring in the fall, “you’re probably hooped,” she said.
The information session covered options for permanent residency and ways that temporary foreign workers can extend their work permits, such as applying for a bridging open work permit.
The problem is that many programs and possibilities are too late, Byl said.
Many workers are worried that they’ll be unable able to extend their stay and will have to return home, said Brnada. They have purchased property and are raising their families here. For some, the only option is to stay in Canada illegally.
“Some of them are planning to stay here beyond the authorized period so we are suspecting there will be lots of underground work,” said Brnada.
“People don’t have anything to go home to. There are no jobs; there is no money,” added Byl.
“They’re going to hang in here as long as they can because Canada has made it clear they do not want them to immigrate. Why would they play by the rules?”
“If you think exploitation of temporary foreign workers is bad, exploitation of undocumented workers is even worse.”
Workers are unlikely to speak up about employer abuse, said Brnada.
“If they are scared to complain now when they are legally here … how (can) they complain when they are illegally here and could be deported at any time? They stay silent until they get permanent residency.”
Byl is urging temporary foreign workers to share their concerns with their MLA and MP.
“You may not be a voter, but you’re a taxpayer and you’re entitled to talk about your experience with our elected officials.”
Temporary foreign workers are getting to a point of hopelessness, said Byl, “so hopeless they don’t have a whole lot to lose.”