Statement on Canada’s Human Trafficking Awareness Day (2020)

February 22 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Canada.

Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation, harbouring and/or exercising control, direction or influence over a person in order to exploit that person.

Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada are targets for traffickers. Our immigration and labour laws make it easy for employers to exploit them.

Today, CNEE calls for changes to reduce these vulnerabilities.

Protect Migrant Workers from Unscrupulous Recruitment Agencies in the Province of Ontario

Iran Jasmine paid $2,000 CAN to a recruiter in Mexico who promised her a good job that would pay her $4,000 a month in Canada. She took a flight to Toronto, where Patricia Zuniga of RTL Services, based in Barrie, Ontario put her to work cleaning rooms at four-star hotels, including a Westin and the Georgian Bay Hotel in Collingwood.

“Everything they promised me in Mexico wasn’t real. [They told me] I was going to have a work permit and be legal to work, and that was not true” Iran Jasmine, False promises: Foreign workers are falling prey to a sprawling web of labour trafficking in Canada, Globe and Mail, 2019

Hundreds of cases like Jasmine’s happen every year. For a fee, unscrupulous recruiters promise to ensure workers will have lucrative jobs that can support their families.

Those recruiters profit from workers’ economic hardships back home and collect thousands of dollars in ‘service fees’. Many workers take loans to cover those fees along with other travel expenses. These loans place workers in the precarious situation of relying on the work that often exploits them in order to repay their debts.

Their precariousness prevents them from acting on their rights once in Canada as they cannot jeopardize their employment. To make matters worse, in many cases the promised job offers either do not exist or employment conditions, including wages, are completely different than agreed.

Collaborative Network to End Exploitation (CNEE) calls on the Government of Ontario to stop unscrupulous recruiters by following the example of the governments of Manitoba and British Colombia and adopting comprehensive legislation to protect migrant workers from predatory recruiters and employers.