People who are new to Canada are in some situations at risk of being abused and exploited.

These include foreign workers and family members, whose wellbeing depends on others.

These are the individuals that the federal government wants to protect in a raft of measures that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada unveiled on May 31, 2019.

With regards to foreign workers, starting June 4, 2019, migrant workers who have an employer-specific work permit and are in an abusive job situation will be able to apply for an open work permit.

According to a government news release, this measure will allow migrant workers to leave that employer immediately, maintain their status, and find another job in Canada.

“Every worker in Canada is entitled to a safe and healthy work environment where their rights are respected,” the media release noted. “Some migrant workers with employer-specific work permits end up enduring mistreatment, fearful of workplace punishment, as well as fear of losing their job.”

The release explained that when an application is approved for an open work permit for a vulnerable worker, the employer will also face an employer compliance inspection.

“To date, more than 160 employers have been found non-compliant and received a monetary penalty and/or a ban on hiring foreign workers,” according to the media release. “Cases that involve potentially criminal behaviour are referred to Canada Border Services Agency or the appropriate police force.”

The second measure applies to foreign nationals in Canada who have not yet obtained their permanent residence, and whose status depends on an abusive spouse or partner.

The media release announced that starting July 26, 2019, newcomers experiencing family violence will be able to apply for a fee exempt temporary resident permit that will give them legal immigration status in Canada. This includes a work permit and health care coverage.

This measure does not apply to foreign nationals outside Canada.

“Nobody should have to stay in an abusive situation,” the government noted. “Some individuals fear jeopardizing their immigration status more than an abusive spouse or partner.”

In addition, the government will also expedite the process for those in urgent situations of family violence, who apply for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

The third measure eliminates the lifetime ban on family reunification for those who did not declare all their family members when they applied to immigrate to Canada.

The news release stated that as of September 9, 2019, the government will launch a two-year pilot project where a person who came to Canada can now sponsor undeclared immediate family members.

This measure will cover resettled refugees, who were conferred refugee protection in Canada or were themselves sponsored as a spouse, partner or dependent child.

Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, said in the May 31 news release: “Newcomers who failed to declare immediate family members as they first came to Canada were barred from sponsoring them. Today, we right that wrong.”

A paper by the Canadian Council for Refugees has pointed out that the previous ban affected children.

“This is contrary to Canada’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” the council’s document pointed out. “Article 3 of that Convention requires that children’s best interests be considered in all matters affecting them, while Article 10 guarantees the right to family reunification and to maintain direct contact with both parents on a regular basis.”


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