Law & Policy Reform

The Migrant Workers Centre (MWC) works with community groups and coalitions to advocate for changes to policy and law that uphold migrant workers’ rights.

Some of this work is done by lobbying the government, by making submissions to government bodies, and through test case litigation.

MWC is active with the BC Employment Standards Coalition, Coalition for Migrant Workers’ Rights Canada, and Canadian Council for Refugees’ Anti-Trafficking Committee.

Advocating for the rights of migrant workers requires more than just providing individuals with legal information and advice. Systemic economic and social marginalization of migrant workers must be addressed through public legal education and law and policy reform to tackle the root causes of marginalization.

Immigration Law & Policy

Please see below for some examples of our immigration-related law and policy reform work.

  • In April 2018, MWC provided a brief to and participated in a round table discussion with Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for its review of the IRCC Caregiver Pilot Programs. Since the IRCC Caregiver Pilot Programs, also known as the Caring for Children and Caring for People with High Medical Needs Pathways to permanent residence, were introduced in November 2014, MWC has critiqued the Programs for restricting access to permanent residency for caregivers. MWC made recommendations for a new Caregiver Program that would enable caregivers to apply for permanent residency from outside of Canada and arrive with permanent residency status, or apply from inside of Canada. To alleviate family separation and the vulnerable position of workers in the Caregiver Program, MWC also recommended the following: a 12-month work requirement, 6-month PR application processing time, issuance of sector-based work permits instead of employer-specific work permits, and the option for spouses of caregivers to apply for an open work permit and accompany caregivers to Canada.
    Migrant Workers Centre: A Proposal for Improving Canada’s Caregiver Program, April 2018.
  • In April 2017, WCDWA appeared before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to provide testimony for its study on immigration consultants. WCDWA brought the problem of immigration consultants acting in a dual role as employment agents and charging TFWs exorbitant fees for jobs in Canada to the attention of the Committee. WCDWA recommended that the self-regulatory regime for immigration consultants be ended, that applicants should not be penalized for the actions of immigration consultants, and that the vulnerabilities inherent in the TFWP, such as employer-specific work permits, be alleviated. Employer-specific work permits leave TFWs with little choice but to hire third party employment agents.
  • In December 2016, WCDWA was successful in a judicial review application before the Federal Court of Canada of a visa officer’s decision denying a caregiver a temporary resident permit (TRP). The caregiver had applied for permanent residence (PR), but his application was refused for non-compliance (his email account had been hacked and he had not received a request for information from CIC). He applied for a TRP to regain legal status in Canada in order to be able to re-apply for PR under the Live-in Caregiver Class. The court held that the officer’s decision was not reasonable as the impact of the refusal of the TRP on the caregiver’s minor son in the Philippines had not been considered by the officer, nor had the caregiver’s need to support his family or the difficulty of finding employment in the Philippines. The matter was referred to a different officer for redetermination.

Palmero v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) 2016 FC 1128

  • In December 2016, after years of lobbying from WCDWA and other concerned parties, the Federal Government announced the end of the 4-and-4 year rule, meaning that Temporary Foreign Workers’ stay in Canada would no longer be limited to 4 years. The 4-and-4 rule required migrant workers to leave after four years of cumulative employment and banned them from returning for four years. This rule resulted in removals of TFWs from Canada when their 4 years were up.
  • In May 2016, WCDWA provided a brief to the parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) for its review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. WCDWA made recommendations for improvements to the TFWP, including permanent residence status for TFWs on arrival in Canada, or open work permits and pathways to permanent residence for all TFWs.
    Temporary Foreign Worker Program: A Submission by the West Coast Domestic Workers Association to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, 31 May 2016.
  • In February 2016, WCDWA contributed to FAFIA’s (Feminist Alliance for International Action) report to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights entitled Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Canada 2006-2015 on the occasion of the committee’s sixth periodic review of Canada. WCDWA wrote the chapter on the Live-in Caregiver Program and made recommendations, including permitting domestic workers to come to Canada as immigrants, eliminating the use of employer-specific work permits, improving regulation of recruitment agencies, removing the caps on access to permanent residence, and ratifying the domestic workers convention.
    Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Canada: 2006-2015 Report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the Occasion of the Committee’s Sixth Periodic Review of Canada.
  • In November 2014, the Live-in Caregiver Program was ended. The program was replaced by two caregiver pathways to permanent residence as part of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. This change was only a partial victory for caregivers. After extensive lobbying by caregiver groups, the live-in requirement for caregivers was removed, allowing them greater freedom to choose suitable living arrangements. The processing of applications for permanent residence would also be much faster under the new pathways, reducing the length of family separation. However, the new program severely restricts access to permanent residence for caregivers in new ways. MWC continues to lobby extensively for a more just caregiver program.
  • In December 2011, after lobbying from WCDWA and other groups, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced it would begin issuing open work permits to caregivers who had applied for permanent residence prior to them receiving “approval in principle”. This was a great benefit to caregivers, as the approval in principle decision often took up to 18 months for IRCC to make. This resulted in excessive wait times for caregivers who were forced to remain unemployed or working for an exploitative employer while waiting for their open work permit.
  • In April 2010, after years of lobbying from WCDWA and other groups, the federal government adopted two very important amendments to the Live-in Caregiver Program:
    • Caregivers were granted four years instead of three years to complete the 24 months of full-time employment required in order to be eligible for permanent residence in the live-in caregiver class; and
    • Caregivers in the Live-in Caregiver Program were no longer required to undergo a second medical exam in Canada to be eligible for permanent residence. This change was made in honour of Juana Tejada, a live-in caregiver who had developed cancer while working in Canada and whose application for permanent residence was refused for medical inadmissibility. She fought tirelessly to advance caregivers’ rights in Canada.
  • In 2005, WCDWA was successful in a judicial review application of a decision of Citizenship and Immigration Canada that refused a caregiver’s application for a work permit. The caregiver’s work permit expired while she was waiting for her new employer to receive a confirmation from Human Resources and Development Canada. The caregiver’s application was rejected because she had not paid a $200 restoration fee. However, the caregiver had not been notified that this option was available. The caregiver claimed a breach of procedural fairness. As a result of the non-payment, the caregiver would have had to return to her homeland and start the process again after a two year wait. The court decided that the sanction the caregiver faced was draconian and she should have been advised of the proper procedure. The decision was set aside.

Castro v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) 2005 FC 659

  • In 2005, WCDWA was successful in a judicial review application before the Federal Court of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration’s refusal to extend a caregiver’s temporary residence status. The decision emphasized that the Minister owed the caregiver a duty of administrative and procedural fairness to advise of deficiencies in applications and to subtracting processing times from application deadlines.

Lim v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) 2005 FC 657

  • In 1996, WCDWA won a case at the Federal Court of Canada for a client who made misrepresentations about her marital status when she applied to come to Canada. As a result of this case, clients who misrepresent their marital status upon entry into Canada can typically rectify the situation as long as they do so before applying for permanent residence.

Mitra v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), [1996] F.C.J. No. 1495

Employment Law & Policy

Please see below for some examples of our employment-related law and policy reform work.

  • In March 2018, MWC provided a written submission to the British Columbia Labour Code Review Panel. MWC recommended that amendments be made to the BC Labour Code for a system of broader based collective bargaining that would provide meaningful access to collective bargaining to migrant caregivers in BC.
    Migrant Workers Submission to the Section 3 Panel Reviewing the British Columbia Labour Relations Code, March 2018.
  • In December 2017, WCDWA provided oral and written submissions to the BC Fair Wages Commission. In its submission, WCDWA recommended that BC implement a $15 hourly minimum wage by the end of 2018, as this would bring it in line with the provinces of Alberta and Ontario. WCDWA also recommended that all domestic workers working in BC should be covered by the minimum wage and overtime wages of the BC Employment Standards Act and Regulations. In doing so, it brought attention to the problems associated with the current 5 different classifications of domestic workers in BC who are subject to different rights.
    A Submission by the West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association to the Fair Wages Commission, 7 December 2017.
  • In November 2017, WCDWA provided a written submission to Parliamentary Secretary Ravi Kahlon for the Province of British Columbia’s re-establishment of the Human Rights Commission.
    A Submission Regarding the Re-Establishment of the BC Human Rights Commission, 17 November 2018.
  • In 2016, WCDWA won a case at the BC Court of Appeal involving two caregivers who were found by the Director of Employment Standards to have been charged illegal recruitment fees by an immigration consultant for caregiving jobs in BC.

Gorenshtein v. British Columbia (Employment Standards Tribunal), 2016 BCCA 457.

  • In 2005, WCDWA won a precedent setting case that live-in caregivers in the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) are entitled to employment insurance benefits (EI) when they are laid off work. In 2006, we fought for many caregivers who were not aware of their right to apply for EI to be able to be granted their benefits retroactively.
  • In 1993, the Employment Standards Act (ESA) was substantially amended to extend protections to live-in caregivers, including provisions regarding minimum wage and overtime guarantees. Caregivers were also granted the right to lodge complaints at the Employment Standards Branch. WCDWA had long been advocating for these changes.