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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).


Sincerely,


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


KAIROS

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



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