Migrant workers are important members of our communities and perform essential work in many industries. Many of these workers are issued employer-specific work permits, which make it extremely difficult to change jobs, restricting their labour mobility within the country. This is a violation of their fundamental human right to freely change employers.
The widespread abuse and mistreatment of migrant workers in Canada fuelled by this unjust policy is extensively documented. There is a growing consensus that these permits significantly contribute to the heightened vulnerability of migrant workers to violations of their rights. Migrant workers and their allies have long demanded that the government put an end to the employer-specific work permit and implement policies that would respect workers’ right to freely change employers.
Canada has given repeated assurances that addressing the rampant violations of migrant workers’ rights is a priority. While the federal government has tried to address the harm created by the employer-specific work permit with a variety of different approaches, none have had any substantial impact on the structural vulnerability of migrant workers to the systemic abuse by employers.
Transformative and lasting solutions are needed. Until migrant workers can freely change employers, they will have little choice but to endure exploitative and unsafe working conditions. It is time for the government to abolish the employer-specific work permit and issue open work permits to all migrant workers, regardless of national origin or occupation.
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