COVID-19 highlights need for better treatment of migrant labour: advocates

More protections needed in workers' rights regimes, including pathways to permanent residency.

June 11, 2020   by CP STAFF

OTTAWA — Migrant-rights advocates say the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that labourers in Canada can no longer be treated like “throwaway people” as they have been in the past.

Asylum-seekers working in long-term care homes in Quebec, temporary foreign workers on farms and new immigrants toiling in meat-packing plants are all working in jobs now considered essential.

But Shelley Gilbert, who works on human-trafficking cases in Windsor, Ont., says for too long people in those industries have been considered throwaways.

She and others said today that the existing immigration and workers’-rights regimes don’t provide enough protections, including pathways to permanent residency.


Gilbert says the issue is particularly acute among victims of human trafficking, who are often left undocumented or on temporary permits because their plight is not taken seriously.

The federal Liberals are considering a program that would specifically help asylum-seekers who took work in the health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic, but advocates say it ought to be extended to everyone.