Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I thank the witnesses for their presentations and for being here today.
I appreciate Mr. Possberg's comments about the concern over violations of labour codes, whether it's a domestic worker or a temporary foreign worker. I guess the operative difference, though, between those two categories of workers, is that temporary foreign workers do not have full status. People who are here—Canadians or people with permanent resident status—have status and, therefore, protection.
In the case of temporary foreign workers, the biggest problem, of course, is this: Because they don't have full status, they have very few options. When they are subjected to mistreatment or abuse by the employer, what happens to them? They have dilemmas. They have difficult decisions to make. If they report this situation, they stand to lose their job. If they lose their job, they run into a whole host of other problems. These include not having financial resources, not only to support themselves but also to send home to their families.
We also have situations where a lot of workers may not have access to information about where to go to make their reports. There have been surveys done. The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, for example, has done a lot of work with migrant workers. When they survey migrant workers, how many of them have actually received information about their rights? The vast majority of them say they haven't. Then, when you ask further questions about how many of them received information about their rights in the language they speak, that number reduces even more. You can anticipate the difficulties with all of that.
Now, I want to get into the issue of status. The Canadian government has put in place something that says temporary foreign workers who may be subjected to abuse are “vulnerable workers”. They can report, and there's a process people can go through. If, through that investigation, it's proven there has in fact been abuse, they would be able to get an open work permit. What I don't understand is why we have a system that says only after you've been subjected to abuse—you've already experienced terrible working and housing conditions, and what have you—can you get an open work permit.
The question for me is this: Why not offer the open work permit upfront to people? I get that people will say, “They'll all leave. They won't come and we will lose the sector.” In our last panel, that question was asked of the witnesses. It is an issue of working conditions and competitive working environments, so you can attract and retain workers both locally and, I guess, possibly from abroad.
I will share this with you: I am an immigrant. My family immigrated here. When we first arrived as a family of eight, we had a low income. My mom went into the workforce and worked in the fields at a farm. She made $10 a day to support the family. She left at 5 a.m. and did not get back until 9 p.m. She made $10 a day. Now, I know that was a long time ago. Ten dollars is not very much now, but back then it wasn't very much either. That was the reality. She did that for two years to support the family. She eventually got a better job making minimum wage.
The question then is this: If employers were to consider better working conditions and competitive wages to attract and retain domestic workers as well as temporary foreign workers, wouldn't that be a much better way, instead of subjecting people to potential abuse? I'm not saying all employers are abusive. It's potential abuse.
I'm reading a report from the news here, which indicates the government did a series of assessments and found 116 violations, with 93 employers facing monetary penalties totalling $1.5 million.
What were their violations? We are talking about wages not being compliant with what they were supposed to pay workers and that workers thought they were signed up for. Inadequate accommodations and issues around safe working conditions were among these violations. This is the reality that people are faced with.
What I would urge you to consider is this. What should be done to ensure that workers' rights are protected?
That is the big question which, in my mind, is absolutely critical. I would urge all employers to take it into consideration.