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.
- The current state of labour rights for migrant workers.
- Legal remedies and options.
- 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”
10:45-11:30 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
2:15-3:00 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
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”
10:45-11:30 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.’
2:30-3:30 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