IF I AM VICTIM OF LABOUR EXPLOITATION, DO I HAVE THE RIGHT TO GET A WORK PERMIT?
The news published about the rescue of 43 Mexican citizens victims of labour and human trafficking spread quickly. We are happy to know that they are now free from the inhuman conditions to which they were subjected and that the immigration authorities issued them a Temporary Work Permit, which helped them to find employment fast.
Although we are encouraged by the rapid re-integration of victims into the labour market, it is not reasonable to think that people who are victims of labour abuse will be able to obtain a work permit. This case is not a reference that guarantees a permanent stay in Canada. There’s always a process to follow and requirements to fulfill, which are ruled by the Ministry of Immigration, Refuge and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
Although the judicial system in Canada promotes respect and protection of the individual regardless of their immigration status, anyone who plans to come to this country should make use of the tools and information available to the public in general. Otherwise, you will be exposed to abuses without any guarantee that your immigration status will be resolved. Consequently, our legal clinic has developed some platforms to inform our community about some of the options for obtaining permanent residency in Canada*. Do not forget that misinformation makes you an easy prey for abuse.
WORK WITHOUT VALID PERMIT = EMPLOYMENT PROTECTION?
The primary mandate of the Ministry of Labour in Ontario is to enforce the basic employment standards regardless of the workers’ migratory status.
What does this mean in practical terms?
This means that the worker’s immigration status is irrelevant at the time of filing a claim with the Ministry of Labour if they have not been received payment for their salary, overtime, vacations, etc. Any claims made at this office will not be dismissed due to the worker’s immigration status.
Please note that the Ministry of Labour has no jurisdiction to issue a deportation order. In our experience, all claims are investigated equally whether or not the employee has a work permit or is a permanent resident in Canada. When investigating a claim, the officer do not even need to know the social security number (SIN)
On the other hand, physical injuries at the workplace are not reported to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) for the erroneous perception that without status there’s no rights. People believe that they have no right to get help because they are “illegals”. This is one of the many reasons why thousands of people are subjected to humiliating labour practices, although it does not have the same criminal relevance as the case reported on February 11 or do not classify as a human trafficking violation.
It is worth emphasizing that people whose rights are violated at the workplace can seek remedies in Courts and Boards, but this does not mean that they will AUTOMATICALLY RECEIVE A WORK PERMIT.
Be informed … the time you spend will save you frustrations and injustices that often do not have a happy ending. Always seek the help from lawyers, paralegals and specialized community workers. A legal consul allows you to assess the merits of your case based on evidence or legal circumstances other than your immigration status.
*¿Y AHORA QUE? If you have this question, we invite you visit our webpage www.yahoraque.ca where you will find accurate and reliable information.
 Draaisma, Muriel (2019, February 11). Police in Ontario free 43 Mexicans brought to Canada by alleged human traffickers. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/human-trafficking-bust-barrie-1.5014269.