Profile: Yessy Byl is a lawyer whom the Alberta Federation of Labour hired in 2007 as a Temporary Foreign Workers advocate. She had previously served as a volunteer with the Edmonton Community Legal Centre. In this interview she describes the history and flaws of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program.
She identifies the origins, restrictions, and status of the TFW Program, which began before 2002 to accommodate international corporations and postsecondary institutions. The Program was continuously adjusted to facilitate demands of a booming economy for cheap, flexible labour without offering citizenship to the workers. Employers obtained work permits to import “expendable people” – mainly from the Philippines, Latin America, and India. Recruiters exploit the program and the desire to immigrate to Canada, charging $3,000 to $15,000 per person for unsure jobs, and a chance to earn $10.50/hour. Inadequate government support office staffing sometimes left over 100,000 vulnerable workers at the mercy of reckless employers. Byl explained that work injuries, complaints about housing or overtime compensation, or arbitrary employer decisions could result in one-way tickets home – at the worker’s expense. Human and labour rights were often suspended under the TFW Program.
Keywords: Cheap labour; Human rights; Immigration; India; Labour recruiters; Latin America; Philippines
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