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30 Faith Organizations Signed the Open Letter!

Open Letter Text:

The Honourable Marc Miller, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship of Canada

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON

K1A 0A6

Dear Minister,

As leaders of Christian charities, churches, and local congregations, our faith compels us to uphold the dignity of workers. That is why we are calling for urgent action to immediately abolish the closed work permit system for migrant workers.

Migrant workers coming through the low-wage Temporary Foreign Worker Program perform essential work in many industries and are important members of our communities. At the height of the COVID pandemic, they sustained our economy and ensured Canadians had food on their plates. Yet many experience verbal abuse, sexual harassment, workplace injuries, inhumane living conditions, and exploitation.

These injustices are a direct result of the closed work permit system and a lack of accessible pathways to permanent residency. This has been well documented by research, reports, and even Canadian Parliamentary Committees. Closed work permits embed unequal power structures in which workers are beholden to the decisions of their employer, whom they cannot disobey for fear of losing their jobs and being deported home. The most recent criticism comes from the UN Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. In his final report, the Rapporteur condemns the use of the closed work permit system because it “makes migrant workers vulnerable to contemporary forms of slavery, as they cannot report abuses without fear of deportation.”

The Canadian government has taken some piecemeal measures to address the well documented violations of migrant workers’ rights, such as increased inspections of employers, an anonymous tip line, and the Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers Program (OWPVW). None of these has changed the fundamental vulnerability of migrant workers to systemic abuse by employers in a closed work permit system.

Transformative and lasting solutions are needed. Sectoral or region-restricted work permits are unacceptable alternatives, as any work permit system that makes the right to earn a living dependent on maintaining a relationship with a specific employer or group of employers places a worker in a condition of servitude. Restrictive permits would continue to have a negative impact on job opportunities, wages, and working conditions both for migrant workers and non-unionized Canadian workers.

Migrant workers are an essential part of our communities. Until they can freely change employers and access permanent residency, they will be forced to endure exploitative and unsafe working conditions.

We respectfully call on this government to:

1. Replace closed work permits with unconditional open work permits.

2. Open barrier-free pathways to permanent residency for all migrant workers (regardless of wage level or occupation).


Collaborative Network to End Exploitation

Leah Watkiss, Chair

Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada

Sue Wilson, Executive Director of Office for Systemic Justice for the Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada

Canadian Augustinian Centre for Social Justice

Brian Dwyer, Director

Anglican Diocese of Toronto

Elin Goulden, Social Justice & Advocacy Consultant

Mary Ward Centre for Education, Spirituality and Justice

Audrey Ferrer, Director

Loretto Sisters Canada

Mary Mallany, Leadership

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

Rev. Susan C. Johnson, National Bishop

Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto

Georgette Gregory, Congregational Leader

Canadian Jesuits International

Jenny Cafiso, Executive Director

Sisters of Service of Canada

Mary-Ellen Francoeur, Peace and Justice Ministry

Our Lady's Missionaries

Frances Brady, Community Animator

Mouvement Laudato Si' Movement – Canada

Agnes Richard, National Coordinator

Providence Centre for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation

Bridget Doherty, Executive Director

Congregation de Notre Dame

Ona B. Bessette, Congregation Leader

Ursuline Sisters of Chatham

Theresa Mahoney, Community Leader

Congrégation des Soeurs de la Charité de Saint-Louis

Piché Alberte, Supérieure générale

Soeurs du Bon-Pasteur de Québec

Gagné Lise, Supérieure générale

Missionnaires Oblates de St Boniface

Cécile Fortier, Supérieure générale

Soeurs de la Charité d'Ottawa

Rachelle Watier, Supérieure générale

Sisters of Charity Halifax

Margaret Fitzpatrick, Congregational Leader

Service jésuite des réfugiés – Canada

Norbert Piché, Directeur

Diocese of London

Joe Bezzina, Director of Pastoral Services


Leah Shifferaw, Migrant Justice Team Lead

Sisters of Mercy Sister

Diane Smyth, Congregational Leader

Institut Notre-Dame du Bon-Conseil de Montréal

Gisèle Turcot, SBC Supérieure générale

Le Centre Oblat - A Voice for Justice

Joe Gunn, Executive Director

Soeurs de la Providence

Alba Letelier, Leder Congrégationnelle

Toronto United Mennonite Church

Sadie Martin, Volunteer, Mission & Service Committee

Citizens for Public Justice

Emilio Rodriquez, Policy Analyst, Refugee & Migrants Rights

Becoming Neighbours

Fr. Peter McKenna, SCJ, Ministry Director

FinalSignaturesFaith OWPC
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