migrant workers in manitoba perceived disposable since eons, time to change the narrative
Canada – A recent scathing report released on Friday by Canada’s auditor general has made advocates of migrants in Canada’s Manitoba province call for federal and provincial governments to ensure the rights of these migrants is protected even after the pandemic. According to the report, the federal entity that was tasked to inspect farms that employ temporary migrant workers failed to keep a tab and rightly assess the treatment by employers and whether they were protecting the employees’ rights during pandemic.
Employment and Social Development Canada’s inspectors failed to enforce the pandemic rules and guidelines that were to protect workers from Covid-19 infection, skipped inspection to ensure if employers made basic rights to the workers like cleaning products for use, separating accommodation for workers who tested positive with coronavirus infection as well as quarantine facilities for those who were supposed to undergo 14 day quarantine period on arrival in Canada. The Auditor General Karen Hogan underlines these points in the report.
However damning the report revelations, they aren’t a surprise according to Diwa Marcelino, an organizer with Migrante Manitoba, that advocates approximately 12,000 migrant workers in the province. He added that this is because the migrant workers have always been treated as “disposable”, even before the pandemic struck the world. “There are programs in place that the Canadian government has made in response to COVID-19, but the fact remains that most workers are in a precarious situation because of the temporary foreign worker program itself,” Marcelino said.
The imbalance in regulation implementation for the migrant workers puts them in a vulnerable position, forcing them to go to work even in unsafe conditions. This was especially true during pandemic when many workers reported of unsafe working conditions in meat processing facilities, and tried to work along with Migrante Manitoba to shut down the operations citing surge in Covid-19 cases. “This is a standard that was applied to all folks around the world that six feet was a distance, but unfortunately for workers in the meat processing industry, it seemed that they didn’t have to abide by those rules,” Marcelino noted.
Additionally, vaccine access was a big problem for a big chunk of migrant workers in the province. These issues underline the huge gap in regulatory implementation by federal and provincial governments towards protection of temporary foreign workers.