Archive for December, 2009

hey, I figured out what I am doing…

In my thesis I plan to study low-skill temporary foreign worker programs (TFWPs) in Canada. There are two generally well-known TFWPs in Canada, the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) and the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP). A third major program, introduced in 2002, is much less studied and understood. It is called the Pilot Project for Occupations Requiring Lower Levels of Formal Training (PPORLLFT). To put these three programs in context, in 2008 there were approximately 10,000 and 35,000 participants in the SAWP and LCP respectively. In 2005 there were less than 5,500 temporary foreign workers working under the PPORLLFT, and just three years later in 2008 this number had risen to over 66,000, an increase of over %1200. Approximately 66% of all the PORLLFT visas are in Alberta, 20% in B.C. and 5% in Ontario, reflecting a concentration in Tar Sands and Olympics related projects. My main research questions will be:

  • How is the PPORLLFT, as a very broad and large scale expansion of temporary foreign workers in Canada, undermining labour standards for both permanent and temporary workers?
  • What is the political narrative behind expanding TFWPs in Canada (i.e. in parliamentary and committee debates), and how does the temporarity of these programs, especially the PPORLLFT program, relate to the general trend of neoliberalization of the state and citizenship in Canada and golbally?

As of 2008, there were more than 370,000 temporary foreign workers (TFWs) living and working in Canada. This is much more than the 106,000 economic-class Permanent Residents (PRs) in Canada in 2008. Thus, while there are still many refugee and family-class PRs,  in terms of the composition of the group of people who are allowed into Canada based on their ability to work, there are far more temporary foreign workers than there are foreign workers with PR status. Though higher skilled TFWs and participants in the LCP in some cases do have a route to (PR) and Citizenship, this is very unlikely for PPORLLFT participants, and all but impossible for SAWP participants. Thus, the population of people who are working in Canada but who have no route to PR or Citizenship is increasing significantly.

There is already some scholarship on how temporary foreign worker programs in Canada fit into a larger trend of the neoliberalization of the welfare state. For example, Choudry, Hanley, Jordan, Shragge, and Stiegman (2009) combine an analysis of the development of neoliberal immigration policy in Canada with workers’ stories that they have gathered from their work as activists in the Immigrant Workers Centre in Montreal. The most comprehensive analysis of Canada’s low-skill TFWPs comes from a very recent article by Fudge and MacPhail (2009) who trace the history of these programs and their recent impacts from the perspective of organized labour and labour law. They argue that the lack of enforcement of federal and provincial policies intended to eliminate exploitation of foreign temporary workers creates a pool of unfree labour which has negative consequences for both those workers themselves and for labourers in general in Canada. Fudge and MacPhail appear to draw upon the analysis of Canadian immigration policy presented by Sharma (2006) who discusses the narrative behind the creation of an  ‘unfree’ group of so-called ‘migrant workers.’ Relatedly, on the concept of alternative or non-state created ideas of citizenship, Isin (2008) writes about the idea of social citizenship and how citizenship may be more realized through acts of contestation (e.g. demanding rights), rather than by being granted by a state.

Besides these more analytical and theoretical works, I anticipate that the majority of reading and analysis that I will undertake will be of government documents, including statistics, committee minutes, and pieces of legislation. Deconstructing and synthesizing these materials will lead me to an understanding of the forces and processes involved in the actions and policy making of the government.

Initially I wanted to base any research for my MA project on the “lived experiences” of people being affected by government policies, in order to ensure that my work would not be out of touch with the needs of non-academic communities. However, after discussions with different people, and for a number of reasons which I will not go into here, I am moving away from basing my research and project on community-based interviews. That being said, I still wish to make a contribution to struggles by labour and community organizers for equity and prosperity for both foreign and domestic workers and their families. The PPORLLFT is very understudied at this point, and in conversations that I have had with a few community organizers there appears to be a need to understand the forces behind the program as well as a profile of those being affected by it. A major objective of this project will be to discover who the workers are that are participating in the PPORLLFT (i.e. is there a cohesive profile of this group?) and what employers are driving the increase of low-skill temporary foreign worker permits? Since all employers wishing to participate in the PPORLLFT must apply for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from Human Resources And Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), I am hoping that it is possible to acquire information on LMOs in order to create a profile of this labour market.

Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada

I have removed what was posted here, the initial work that that I was doing on a paper, and replaced it with a link to the PDF of the final/full version of the paper, called:

“Low-Skill Temporary Foreign Worker Programs in Canada: Challenges to Citizenship”