Opposition in New Brunswick demands decent treatment of migrant workers

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Opposition in New Brunswick demands decent treatment of migrant workers

Report documents abuse and threats against them, deplorable working and housing conditions.

A study shows that the conditions of temporary foreign workers are sometimes deplorable. (Archival photo)

A study on difficult conditions for migrant workers sparks strong political reactions.

A recent report by researchers from Dalhousie Universities in Halifax and St. Thomas Universities in Fredericton looked at the experiences of 15 temporary migrant workers in New Brunswick.

According to the testimonies, they would have experienced abuse, there would have been breaches of health and safety rules, dangerous work situations and deplorable housing conditions, as well as racism.

Liberal Critic for Small Business, Trade Policy, Population Growth and Immigration, Jean-Claude D'Amours, finds the situation described in the report intolerable.

“You have to ask yourself: would we tolerate this? If the answer is no, I think it's high time to start taking steps to make corrections. »

— Jean-Claude D'Amours, Liberal MP for Edmundston-Madawaska-Centre

Green MP for Kent-North, Kevin Arseneau is not surprised by the study findings. There are also local workers who approached me to make sure I was aware of the situation of some migrant workers.

“I've heard of similar situations. These are lived experiences, these are real experiences, and I think that what we must remember from these studies is that we can and must do better”

— Kevin Arseneau, MP Green of Kent North

He himself has already raised the problems faced by these migrant workers in the Legislative Assembly. The issue of access to health insurance, I have raised this issue in the chamber in the past, specifically for migrant workers.

Kevin Arseneau, Green Party of New Brunswick MP for Kent North. (File photo)

Jean-Claude D'Amours believes that possible legislative changes should be considered to ensure rights for migrant workers. When looking at employment standards, this may be one of the elements that will have to be observed.

The Liberal MP also feels that the role of WorkSafeNB may need to be reviewed. What, really, is the work that this organization has been able to do in the past, and also see how it can do even more important and positive work in the future.

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Legislative changes are extremely important. There is also accessibility to certain programs. I can think, among other things, of the health insurance program, maintains Kevin Arseneau.

Of course, these people can get sick. People don't get sick for fun, it's a human reality, adds Jean-Claude D'Amours. When those people move around and then have family members with them — and some of those people work too — you have to be able to support it somehow.

< p class="e-p">On the side of the Conservative government, in Fredericton, the minister responsible, Trevor Holder, did not want to grant an interview on this subject.

His staff have reported, via email, that the government is looking into these disturbing revelations.

A farm worker in a field in spring. (File photo)

I don't feel any sensitivity at the government level to make changes, launched Kevin Arseneau. But we also know that he has a general hostility towards workers, period. But that doesn't mean we have to stop pushing the government in the right direction.

Opposition MPs, both Liberal and Green, believe migrant workers should enjoy rights like other workers.

Whether it's at the level of working conditions, whether it's at the level of accommodation conditions, if what was presented to us is the case, even if it is perhaps not generalized […] ask the question: would we tolerate that?, argues Jean-Claude D'Amours. If the answer is no, I think it's high time to start taking steps to make corrections.

Jean-Claude D'Amours, Liberal Party of New Brunswick MNA for Edmundston-Madawaska-Centre. (File photo)

When we talk about threats, intimidation in the workplace, we do not tolerate that. There are still measures that must be taken to ensure that relations between employers and employees are good relations and that there is no threat [of expulsion]. Even if we did it once, it's once too many. So we don't threaten people with deportation or sending them back to their homes, he adds.

Are there two classes of workers? No. Absolutely not. So these are rights that all workers should have […], including migrant workers, insists Kevin Arseneau.

By email, Carla Qualtrough's office, the Federal Minister for Employment and Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, goes in the same direction. All workers in Canada deserve safe, healthy and dignified working conditions. This includes temporary foreign workers, who play an essential role in the Canadian workforce.

Carla Qualtrough's office adds that there could be legal consequences, depending on the situation. If criminal activity is suspected, the information is forwarded to law enforcement agencies such as the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency.

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