Devastating Wildfires Making Migrant Workers More Vulnerable

devastating wildfires making migrant workers more vulnerable

devastating wildfires making migrant workers more vulnerable

Record-setting temperatures and unprecedented wildfires continue to harm swathes of land in the West, destroying hundreds of structures and displacing thousands of people.

Canadians’ circumstances weren’t any better, with temporary migrant workers facing the disproportionate impact of such disasters as they face the fires with relatively little support.

Such workers are already highly vulnerable to hazardous working conditions and workplace abuse. The disasters just elevate that vulnerability, sadly.

Canada’s unfair immigration policies are widely blamed for the workers’ worsening plight in times of crisis. Read on to find out how challenging it has reportedly been for them.

Employers Enjoying Significant Control Over Workers’ Lives

The vulnerability of migrant workers in Canada is directly related to the immigration programme through which they are recruited. These policies offer them a few legal protections and rights.

For instance, most workers in Okanagan in the Canadian province of British Columbia come through the Temporary Foreign Worker Programme.

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But the policies prohibit the people from changing employers, who are, in turn, vested with significant, and often detrimental, control over the lives of their workers.

Although some migrant workers received support during the wildfires, most of the workers researchers spoke to, in order to realise the true impact, reported challenges.

Troubles Keep Piling Up

A number of workers reported not receiving masks or any other equipment to shield themselves from the bad air quality introduced amid the raging wildfires.

In certain cases, employers apparently didn’t offer the workers breaks to rest from the harsh outdoor and smoky conditions, despite reported cases of sore throats and difficulty breathing.

Several workers said they asked for longer breaks, shorter working hours and easier access to fresh water. But all of their demands were allegedly denied.

Some raised concerns over not being compensated for weeks and being asked to leave without pay and with no explanations during the wildfire crisis.

Migrants interviewed said they felt they have been ignored, with one Mexican worker stressing: “Perhaps people think we do not have anything to say?”

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