Conference Program

In Canada, and around the world, temporary migrant workers are increasingly being used for seasonal and permanent jobs. The 2013 data indicates the number in Canada is approaching 200,000. Unofficial 2015 estimates place the number as approaching a half million. They come from 50 countries, but most from these six: Philippines, Mexico, the U.S., Jamaica, India & Guatemala.

 Their rights and legal protections, however, are highly circumscribed, their employment is insecure, and abuse by employers of the workers and the temporary foreign worker programs is widespread. Many see the governments involved - both Canadian and their home governments  -- as complicit in this abuse given the almost complete lack of enforcement of the limited  standards that do exist.

This two-day conference is intended for all those interested in the issue, but especially for union and community organizers advocating for the legal rights of these workers and engaged in organizing them.

The conference has three themes, to be explored by each speaker.

  1. The current state of labour rights for migrant workers.
  2. Legal remedies and options.
  3. Strategies for organizing migrant workers.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Location: Earl and Jennie Lohn Floor Policy Room 7000 at Harbour Centre

8:15-9:00         Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:00-9:45         Welcome and Introduction
                            Leo McGrady and Gary Teeple
                            Leo McGrady – Thursday morning facilitator

9:45 – 10:30    Sibel Ataogul, Lawyer at Melançon Marceau Grenier Sciortino, s.e.n.c.

                            Migrant Agricultural Workers and Labour Relations in Quebec”

10:30-10:45     Break  

10:45-11:30     Naveen P. Mehta, Lawyer, Director, Human Rights, Equity and Diversity,
                             United Food & Commercial Workers Canada

                             “Migrants: Strategic Organizing of Ultra – Precarious Workers”

11:30-12:15     Lynne Fernandez, Errol Black Chair in Labour Issues, Canadian Centre
                             for Policy Alternatives, Manitoba

                              “The Call for a Temporary Foreign Worker National Advocacy

12:15-1:15       Catered Lunch   
                             Gary Teeple - Thursday afternoon facilitator

1:15-2:00         Yessy Byl, Northern Alberta Educator in Human Rights Education for
                            the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Center

                            “The Temporary Foreign Workers Program From an Albertan

2:00-2:15         Break

2:15-3:00         Kaity Cooper, Lawyer for the Hospital Employees’ Union, and
                            Jodie Gauthier, Lawyer who practices in the areas of labour, human
                            rights, disability and workers’ compensation law

                            “Bringing Up BC: The Negative Impacts of the Temporary Foreign
                             Workers Program on Vulnerable Workers and Proposals for
                             Regional Action”

3:00-3:45         Natalie Drolet, West Coast Domestic Workers Association

                            “Caregivers and Labour Rights in BC: Barriers to Decent Work”

3:45-5:00        Wrap-up – discussion  

Friday, October 9

8:15-9:00        Continental Breakfast
                           Gary Teeple - Friday morning facilitator

9:00-9:45         Arthur Read, General Counsel, Friends of Farmworkers, Inc.

                            “Temporary Migrant Workers: Workers Rights to Organize: 
                            Strategies and Perspectives from the US Experience”

9:45-10:30      Adriana Paz Ramirez, Justicia for Migrant Workers

                            “Embodying and Experiencing Labour Apartheid”

10:30-10:45    Break

10:45-11:30    Patricia O'Hagan, Dean, Health Sciences, University of Hawaii, and
                            Leo McGrady, Lawyer at McGrady and Company

                            “Health Issues Under Canada-Sponsored Migrant Worker

11:30-12:15    Mia Reimers has worked at the Centre of Constitutional Studies at the
                            University of Alberta and McGrady & Company in Vancouver

                            “Seeking International Human Rights Law Protection for
                            Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada”

12:15-1:15      Catered Lunch  

                            Gary Teeple - Friday afternoon facilitator

1:15-2:15         Documentary Film:
                            Min Sook Lee Canadian filmmaker and Assistant Professor of Art and 
                            Social Change at the Ontario College of Art and Design University, and
                            award winning Director of El Contrato, a documentary about Mexican 
                            migrant agricultural workers in Canada. Showing of excerpts from Min 
                            Sook's work-in progress - her new documentary film: Migrant Dreams:
                            about migrant women who ‘work in hotels cleaning rooms, greenhouses
                            tending flowers, factories sorting fruit, in the fields picking worms and
                            as health care providers.’

2:15-2:30         Break

2:30-3:30         Panel Discussion:  Meaning, Implications, and Future of Temporary
                            Foreign Worker Programs

                            Panelists: Kendra Strauss, Gerardo Otero, Brett Matthews

3:30-4:00         Closing Remarks: David Fairey, union researcher and advocate

4:00                   Final words: Leo McGrady and Gary Teeple