New documentary raises alarm over temporary foreign workers

Directors of the film The End of Immigration? Directors Malcom Guy and Marie Boti
Directors of the film The End of Immigration?

Directors Malcom Guy and Marie Boti. Photo by Graham Jordan Beardsley

By: RACHEL COLLIER

An increase in temporary foreign workers who are coming to Canada may mean the “end of immigration,” according to a new documentary directed by Malcom Guy and Marie Boti.

The End of Immigration?, shown Monday at Ottawa’s Mayfair theatre, explores the influx of temporary foreign workers into Canada.  According to the documentary, this trend is in contrast with the image of Canada as “a land of immigrants.”

Boti explained that the change comes with “employer driven privatization” of immigration, where private companies, such as Olymel or Bee-Clean Building Maintenance, use temporary foreign workers to fill job positions.

The End of Immigration? outlines the struggles that many workers face once they are in Canada. Because temporary workers are not Canadian citizens, they are not entitled to the same protections as Canadian residents.

Some employers hire “rent-a-workers” because they know they can pay them less and threaten to deport them if their work is not exceptional, the documentary explains.

Workers come to Canada under the agreement they will not seek alternate employment, and stay loyal to the company that brought them to Canada, even if they are being exploited.

After temporary workers complete their contract, they are returned to their countries.

Boti and Guy have been showing the film across Canada since May to raise awareness of temporary workers’ struggles and to change Canadians attitude towards the system of immigration.

“As citizens, are willing to accept people working side-by-side with us that don’t have the same rights as us?” asked Boti.

When Boti and Guy began researching for the documentary five years ago, they were concerned workers would be wary of speaking out about the hardships they faced. They though workers would not speak from fear they would be returned to their countries, but Guy says temporary workers assisted in any way they could.

“They wanted to tell their stories to help other foreign workers. We were really pleased so many workers came forward and told their story. This film is dedicated to them,” said Guy.

One temporary worker, Joyce Victoria, who arrived in Canada from the Philippines in 2008, spoke out about her experiences at the event.

Victoria says this system is not friendly to her and employers have taken advantage of her status, but she will continue to work in Canada regardless.

“Workers endure abusive working conditions because their family is back home waiting for support,” said Victoria. “This movie is our reality.”

Naveen Mehta, general counsel and director of human rights, equity, and diversity at UFCW Canada, said that the government justifies the existence of temporary foreign workers in Canada by citing job shortages.

“This is a fundamental shift in the way Canada brings in people,” said Mehta. She believe that Canada needs a “more robust immigration system,” instead of temporary foreign workers.

Guy says temporary foreign workers should be respected in Canada.

“We should not use, abuse and throw workers out. They stay here, raise their families, participate in society, and get all the protections that come with that,” said Guy. “They aren’t second-class citizens. We need them as much as we need people with two PhDs.”

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1 Comment on New documentary raises alarm over temporary foreign workers

  1. Graham BEardsley // November 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm //

    Amazing article, i found when reading this it felt like i was almost there in person!

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