The United Nations has released a scathing report characterising Canada’s temporary foreign worker programme as a breeding ground for contemporary forms of slavery.
UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Tomoya Obokata, has raised alarm bells, shedding light on a troubling reality faced by migrant workers in the country.
The report paints a distressing picture of exploitation, abuse, and a shocking lack of basic rights for foreign workers.
According to Mr. Obokata, many of these workers are subjected to excessive working hours, receive wages below the minimum wage, and are denied access to essential healthcare and social services.
Even more distressing are the occurences of physical and sexual violence endured by these vulnerable individuals.
Mr. Obokata’s investigation into the Canadian foreign worker programme follows a series of complaints by Jamaican farm workers in Ontario, Canada.
During his two-week visit, Mr. Obokata encountered numerous instances of forced labour and heard firsthand accounts of exploitation and abuse from migrant workers.
Shockingly, close to 100 workers have lodged complaints related to a range of issues stemming from their participation in the farm work programme.
One particularly distressing revelation in the report is the apparent lack of awareness among these workers regarding their rights.
Existing laws intended to protect seasonal farm workers in Canada are rendered ineffective due to a glaring lack of enforcement. Additionally, labour inspections are criticised for being pre-announced, giving employers ample time to prepare for visits and potentially hide violations.
Mr. Obokata goes as far as to assert that the level of control wielded by employers over the foreign workers is tantamount to slavery.
The report casts a dark shadow over a programme that was designed to be a source of opportunity for individuals seeking employment in Canada.
The report also challenges a previous fact-finding team appointed by Jamaica’s Ministry of Labour.
Last year, this team had reported that Jamaican farm workers in Canada, under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme, were satisfied with their working and living conditions.
However, some workers argued that their report did not faithfully reflect their experiences.
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