Temporary Foreign WorkersPublished on 7 June 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator Mobina Jaffer
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer:
Thank you, minister for being here today. I know you have tried to come here a number of times, so thank you for making that extra effort to be here.
Minister, further to what Senator Meredith was saying, I come from British Columbia, and the excellent produce that we are able to eat in our province comes to us on the backs of migrant workers.
Most of our migrant workers come from Mexico. Whenever I go and visit with them, one of the things that sadden me the most is how many of them suffer from not being taught how to use fertilizers and chemicals, and when they become sick, they’re immediately sent back instead of being given care here.
Minister, one thing you cannot so much do as be my messenger and say to the Minister of Immigration that just as we have the live-in care program whereby, after a few years, we make it possible for live-in care workers to stay in our country, the same kind of program should be available to migrant workers.
More importantly for you, minister, my question is, what kind of leadership are you and your government showing to make sure that all workers, especially migrant workers, are safe in their workplace, especially when they’re aiding small businesses?
Hon. Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P., Minister of Small Business and Tourism: Thank you for the question, honourable senator.
This issue is close to my heart. Prior to being elected to the House of Commons, I worked in the not-for-profit sector with a multicultural centre.
My grandfather immigrated to Canada in the early 1970s, and at that time, yes, he came with status, but the work conditions were not always the best. Those dollars he earned allowed us not only to build a house but for me to be educated and be where I am today. I know the importance of our immigrant workers, and people in general.
I am looking forward to living in a country and a world in which people are treated as people just because they’re people, regardless of status, and that’s a commitment that our government is making.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Ms. Chagger: I assure you that when it comes to temporary foreign workers or migrant workers — whatever the case is — we need to ensure that we are representing Canadian values, and that’s part of why that modernization of the system is taking place, and that’s why we are taking our time and having good consultations and discussions.
Good things take time, and that’s one thing that I think is important. If we’re going to do it right, we need to ensure that we take our time and do it right by talking to the right people and by sharing our experiences.
I remember one of the quotes one of my volunteers on my campaign gave me. He said, “What’s popular might not be right, but what’s right might not be popular.” I am here to do what is right.
I commend the Prime Minister on his leadership in choosing a cabinet that represents the diversity of our country. I assure you that the conversations and the debates that we have are fruitful. I promise you that the perspectives that are shared have never been shared in that room before, and that’s exactly how we will move ourselves forward.
Even coming from an area similar to yours when it comes to migrant workers, we have heard of some of the atrocities that have been committed on our soil, and I do not want to see them duplicated or repeated.
Senator Jaffer: Minister, thank you for your response. When you are next in B.C., I invite you to come with me to those farms and see the conditions.
I would humbly ask you to make a commitment that you will push for small business and workers compensation to at least, if nothing else, put in place national standards for how fertilizers are used on farms so that workers do not get hurt.
Ms. Chagger: I look forward to working with you on that issue and I thank you for bringing it to my attention.
Although not exactly the same, while I have the opportunity I’ll say that I’ve been elected long enough to know that if you have a microphone, you can say what you need to say.
This year, Canada Summer Jobs 2016, as much as it has always served the not-for-profit sector in the past, will also benefit many small- and medium-sized enterprises. Also, youth will see some great benefits from the program.
However, when it comes to our migrant workers, I will definitely take that off-line. I look forward to working with you.