Demonstration demands reform to temporary foreign workers program

Photo by Patrick Lejtenyi

Representatives of immigrant workers groups held a demonstration near Vendome metro this morning to push Quebec to change the way it accepts temporary foreign workers.

They delivered a letter to Quebec immigration minister Kathleen Weil's office demanding a meeting. 

The demonstrators say immigrant workers face low wages, unstable hours and a baffling maze of laws and regulations.

They charge that employers are taking advantage of their precarious situation, depriving them of rights and benefits.

Enrique Llanes came to Canada to escape the economic crisis in his native Spain. He found a job in the video game industry but says he never knew how many hours a week he would work, had not benefits despite paying taxes and was misled about the nature of his employment.

He says he and other workers simply want to live normal, productive lives.

"We want to have access to the services we pay for and we want to be able to become immigrants or at least be able to apply for residency," he says. "And we want the people that are being caught between the changes in the law to regularize their situation."

Llanes says he knows he is lucky - thousands of other workers face far worse working conditions than he does, especially in the farming and meat-packing industries.

Joe Calugay of the Immigrant Workers Centre says Canada is turning its back on its heritage.

"Canada has been built on immigration and on immigrant labour," he said. "If we're gonna close off immigration and replace them with temporary foreign workers, what are we doing? What kind of society are we building?" 

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