Rights, Faith, and Policy: A Public Forum on Migrant Worker Issues

Cooper Institute is excited to invite you to participate in an important event for the support of Migrant Workers in PEI and the Maritimes. 

Rights, Faith, and Policy: A Public Forum on Migrant Worker Issues will bring together migrant workers, community organizations, faith groups, and provincial representatives to build capacity for action, policy, and solidarity on migrant worker rights. 

The forum will begin with a panel featuring speakers addressing each of the 4 themes of the event. Following the large group discussion, participants choose to participate in one of 4 concurrent streams. These streams address the 4 themes of the event: 

· Provincial Policies: the role of Provincial policies for migrant worker rights 

· Communities of Faith: Social Justice outreach with Migrant Workers – Hosted by KAIROS Canada 

· Community Solidarity: the role of organizations and individuals. 

The day will conclude with a presentation of the strategies and next steps determined by each group.

The forum proved to be an excellent opportunity for participants to increase their understanding of the situation of migrant workers in Prince Edward Island, and the barriers they face in realizing their rights as community members, workers and residents of this province. For much of the day participants were divided into three streams – policy, community solidarity and faith communities – to share information, identify challenges and develop ideas for actions to tackle those challenges and support migrant workers to have their rights recognized. After a day of listening and discussing, participants said they were leaving the forum feeling energized, grateful and inspired to take action. Read the whole report here.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Throughout the day it became clear that there were many issues to be addressed. People said they wanted to get involved. These recommendations emerged from the discussions:

  • Organize an annual day of action & awareness, perhaps on May 1st (International Workers’ Day)
  • Involve more workers in the Migrant Workers Action Team
  • Advocate for stronger legislation to regulate recruiters
  • Keep track of workers who are applying for LMIAs – help workers find other work
  • Call for a review of the Employment Standards Act, and ask for meaningful public consultation
  • Share this report with all MLAs
  • Meet with the Health Minister, to advocate for complete healthcare coverage for workers
  • Establish a Maritimes-wide network on migrant worker rights
  • Create opportunities to better understand legislation and policies and advocate for change

Federal Policy Recommendations

  • Lower the fee and make the process faster for Labour Market Impact Assessments
  • Remove the caps (number of migrant workers each employer is allowed to hire)
  • Open Work Permits, not tied to one employer
  • Give Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) workers access to Employment Insurance
  • Access to permanent residency (through the Provincial Nominee Program)

Provincial Policy Recommendations

  • Access to Permanent Residency - through the Provincial Nominee Program
  • Labour laws to cover agricultural workers
  • Legislation that defines acceptable work and living space
  • “Worker Recruitment and Protection Act” to address recruitment/fees
  • Healthcare Coverage for all migrant workers as soon as they arrive
  • Housing – regulations about how much can be charged, housing conditions and safety

From top to bottom: Far Faraday, an award-winning social justice lawyer, said many migrant workers here have a difficult time becoming permanent residents because of the seasonal, temporary nature of jobs in P.E.I. (Nicole Williams/CBC); Ever Reyno, moved to Alberta from the Philippines several years ago. She said she worked 16 hour days, and a month straight with no break, all without receiving pay for overtime. (Nicole Williams/CBC); Monday's public forum was hosted at The Farm Centre, where it aimed to highlight and educate the challenges migrant workers face and the resources available to them. (Nicole Williams/CBC)