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June 24, 2009

Canadian temporary workers bill still has low profile

The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) has received very little feedback about recently introduced federal legislation designed to help protect foreign workers from exploitation.

“There has not been a lot of talk in that area,” says Michael Atkinson, president of CCA.

The federal Conservatives have reintroduced amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to help protect vulnerable foreign workers, such as live-in caregivers and exotic dancers, from exploitation. Citizenship and Immigration Canada has reported that the bill was originally introduced in the previous Parliament but died when last year’s federal election was called.

“This will strengthen Canada’s immigration system by helping to prevent situations where temporary workers in Canada may be abused, exploited or possibly become victims of human trafficking,” said Josée Verner, minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, president of the Queen’s Privy Council and minister for la Francophonie, speaking on behalf of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney, in a statement.

The bill would give Canada’s citizenship and immigration minister the authority to instruct immigration officers to deny work permits to vulnerable foreign workers who may be trafficked into Canada and forced to perform humiliating and degrading jobs against their will.

The amendments are also designed to allow the immigration ministry to speed up specific applications, but critics have argued the amendments would give the immigration minister unprecedented powers over who can and cannot enter Canada.

The amendments also raised debate last time because they were included within the federal budget.

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