CILA’s Statement on the SOCI Report: “Act Now: Solutions for Temporary and Migrant Labour in Canada”


The Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA) extends its gratitude to the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science, and Technology (SOCI) for their comprehensive report, “Act Now: Solutions for Temporary and Migrant Labour in Canada.”

This report is timely and critical as Canada re-evaluates its temporary resident programs amid a severe housing crisis. We commend the SOCI for their thorough examination and insightful recommendations aimed at improving conditions for migrant and temporary workers in Canada. 

CILA was invited to provide input on the SOCI report, and the CILA steering committee sent Lou Janssen Dangzalan to represent the association. 


The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) was established in 1973 and has become essential to several sectors in Canada, such as agriculture, seafood processing, and caregiving. Initially designed as a “last and limited resort” to fill labour shortages, the TFWP has evolved significantly and now plays a vital role in the Canadian economy. However, this evolution has introduced substantial challenges for both workers and employers. 

Key Points of the SOCI Report 

The TFWP is no longer viewed merely as a “last and limited resort.” Instead, it has become a primary mechanism for addressing labour shortages across various sectors. This shift has led to several issues: 

  • Complexity and Bureaucracy: Frequent policy changes, lengthy processing times, and a complex web of programs lead to considerable uncertainty and inefficiencies for both workers and employers. 
  • Workers’ Vulnerability: Migrant workers often face exploitation, abuse, and poor living conditions. The SOCI report underscores the potential for abuse within the TFWP and other high-risk migrant work programs. 
  • Lack of Pathways to Permanence: Many workers have limited opportunities to transition to permanent residency, worsening their precarious status. The report advocates for better recognition and pathways to permanent residency for these workers. 
  • Necessity for Strategic Reform: Immigration and migrant labour policies have often been reactive rather than strategic, necessitating coordinated policy development across departments. 
  • Importance of Migrant Workers: Migrant workers are essential for many industries, especially in rural areas, and they contribute significantly to the survival and growth of businesses. 

Detailed Analysis and Reaction 

Complexity and Inefficiency 

CILA described the Caregiver Program as a “cacophony of pilot programs” that confuse even seasoned immigration lawyers. Frequent policy changes and long processing times, sometimes up to four years, have created significant backlogs and forced employers to seek alternative sources of care. This complexity undermines the program’s effectiveness, making it difficult for families and caregivers to navigate.  

The pilot programs have introduced new barriers, most notably by imposing quotas. Even experienced immigration lawyers find it increasingly hard to determine which programs apply, aggravating the confusion for everyone involved.  

Barriers to Permanent Residency and Class-Based Discrimination 

Lou Janssen Dangzalan underscored the undervaluation of so-called “low-skilled” workers, who play crucial roles in sectors essential to Canada’s economy. Therefore, he advocated for better recognition and pathways to permanent residency for these workers, emphasizing their important contribution to the economy. However, Dangzalan also cautioned about the impact of regularizing over 500,000 new permanent residents, noting that it could have a “substantial impact,” especially if regularized workers are concentrated in smaller provinces. The potential strain on resources and services must be carefully considered. 

CILA pointed out the class-based nature of the current immigration system, where individuals in white-collar jobs have more opportunities to become permanent residents than those in blue-collar jobs. This disparity reflects broader issues of inequality and undervaluation of essential workers. CILA emphasized that many low-wage workers face barriers to obtaining permanent residence, further entrenching their vulnerability and precarious status. 

Language Barriers and Vulnerability 

CILA highlighted that migrant workers with limited English or French proficiency are more susceptible to abuse and have difficulty understanding health and safety instructions, heightening their vulnerability. Lack of language skills also creates barriers to accessing government and private services, increasing their overall risk and vulnerability. 

Sector-and-Region-Specific Work Permits 

CILA suggested exploring sector- and region-specific work permits to enhance labour mobility without eliminating employer-specific work permits. This approach could alleviate administrative and financial burdens on employers while ensuring workers can move within sectors where their skills are in demand. 

Communication and Support for Migrant Workers 

CILA noted that despite recent updates to protect TFWs, these changes still need to be fully communicated. Community organizations, often operating with short-term funding, are currently responsible for disseminating this information in a piecemeal fashion. CILA emphasized the importance of supporting and funding these organizations to build trust and effectively communicate with migrant workers.  

CILA’s Position and Recommendations 

CILA welcomes the SOCI report and supports its call to reform Canada’s temporary and migrant labour policies. CILA emphasizes the following key points: 

  1. Simplification and Transparency: Simplify the Caregiver Program and other similar immigration pathways. Transparent, stable policies and shorter processing times will benefit both workers and employers, reducing uncertainty and administrative burdens.
  2. Sector-and-Region-Specific Permits: Implement sector- and region-specific work permits to balance the need for employer investment and labour mobility. This will ensure that workers can move within sectors where their skills are in demand without being tied to a single employer.
  3. Equitable Access to Permanent Residency: Create more accessible pathways to permanent residency for all workers, regardless of their job type. This approach would address class-based disparities and integrate valuable workers into the Canadian economy and society.
  4. Language Support and Safety: Enhance language training and support services for migrant workers to ensure their safety and integration into the community. Government and community organizations must collaborate to provide these essential services.
  5. Support for Community Organizations: Fund and support community organizations that provide trusted assistance to migrant workers. These organizations play a crucial role in helping workers understand their rights and navigate health and safety concerns.
  6. Data Collection and Sharing: Augment the collection and sharing of identity-related data across departments, including data on race, languages spoken, and educational experience. This will facilitate the use and comparison of disaggregated data while respecting federal privacy legislation.
  7. Coordination of Data Strategy: The Government of Canada should coordinate a data strategy across federal departments and with provinces and territories to promote information sharing and best practices. This strategy would ensure that comprehensive and accurate data inform policies. 

Importance and Timeliness of the SOCI Report 

The SOCI report underscores the necessity of ongoing consultations and studies to inform policy-making. Such inquiries ensure that diverse perspectives are considered, leading to more inclusive and effective immigration policies. At a time when Canada is facing a housing crisis and other economic challenges, re-evaluating the temporary resident program is both timely and necessary. Many migrant workers face significant housing challenges due to their precarious employment status and lack of access to affordable housing. By addressing the systemic issues highlighted in the report and improving the temporary resident program, Canada can ensure better living conditions for migrant workers, which in turn can stabilize the housing market. 


CILA applauds the Senate SOCI committee for their diligent work and the resulting report. The association hopes the recommendations will lead to meaningful reforms in the temporary and migrant labour sectors. Addressing these issues is not only a matter of economic necessity but also one of human rights and dignity. The proposed changes, if implemented, will significantly enhance the lives of migrant workers and contribute to a more equitable and prosperous Canada.  

CILA remains committed to engaging with the government and contributing to conversations about temporary and migrant labour in Canada. We will continue to advocate for policies that protect and empower migrant workers, ensuring their vital role in our economy and communities is recognized and valued. 

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