Help for vulnerable Temporary Foreign Workers

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All temporary foreign workers in Canada have the same rights and protections as Canadian workers. Foreign workers who come to the country are important not only to the employers who hire them, but to the economy and the communities where they reside. It is in the best interest of everyone to ensure that temporary foreign workers (TFW) are well treated while in Canada and that everyone is respecting the rules of the program (Government of Canada).

What counts as abuse?

Any working or living conditions that cause physical, emotional, or sexual harm and prevent you from living and working safely is considered abuse. It includes:

  • Physical harm
  • Forcing you to work in unsafe conditions that puts your health at risk
  • Unsafe or unsanitary living conditions in employer-provided housing
  • Sexual touching that you didn’t agree to
  • Making unwanted sexual comments to you
  • Controlling where you can go
  • Stealing from you
  • Stopping you from seeing friends or co-workers
  • Taking some or all of the money you are paid
  • Threats insults and intimidation
  • Forcing you roc omit fraud
  • A third party charging you for fees for a job or making promises that aren’t real

Concrete examples of abuse are the following:

  • Your employer is bullying you or threatening your status in Canada.
  • You are not allowed to leave your worksite or where you live.
  • They keep your passport or other important documents.
  • The job you’re doing is different from the job you agreed to in your contract or your LMIA.

What should you do?

Reporting abuse
It’s understandable that you may be scared to report for fear of losing your job or for safety reasons. Know that the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) will not inform your employer. They will keep your information and complaint confidential under Canada’s privacy laws.

You can report online, by phone, mail, or in person. You need to have:

  • The name, address and phone number of the business or organization
  • The name/s or positions of the people involved.
  • What is the abuse
  • You don’t have to provide your personal information or LMIA or work permit number, but these can be helpful for the ESDC to know

It is important to provide as much information as you can when you report. This will help the ESDC examine your case thoroughly. If you need help with reporting, you can ask a trusted co-worker or friend to do it on your behalf. You can also read How to report abuse to know more. This guide is available in eight languages.

Open work permit for vulnerable workers

Open work permit for vulnerable workers, IRCC

If you are in an abusive situation, this program can provide a temporary work permit so you can have time to find a new job and apply for a new work permit. You can apply online. Start by reading the instruction guide to know the steps and what you need to have before starting the application. You will need to gather some documents and evidence then create electronic copies for submission. Go to: Open work permit for vulnerable workers for more details. If you can’t apply online or need more help, go to the nearest IRCC office or contact the Client Support Centre. There are no fees for this work permit.

Sources: Vulnerable foreign workers who are victims of abuse and How to report abuse of temporary foreign workers, Government of Canada. Accessed February 1, 2022.

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