Migrant Worker Support Network (British Columbia pilot initiative)

Canada has an obligation to protect and inform migrant workers of their rights while in Canada and to support employer compliance with the conditions of its Temporary Foreign Worker Program. To this end, it launched the Migrant Worker Support Network pilot initiative. The Network is a collaborative and migrant worker-informed platform for migrant workers, employers, governments, and civil society to develop and implement solutions to better protection and support of migrant workers in Canada.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The Migrant Worker Support Network (MWSN or “The Network”) pilot initiative addresses the need for collaborative engagement between civil society organizations and government actors to enhance the protection of vulnerable migrant workers. It was launched as part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to protect incoming migrant workers and ensure that they as well as their employers are informed of their rights and responsibilities under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Consultations with migrant workers and their advocates reveal that this population faces unique obstacles to learning about and exercising their rights while working in Canada.  In contrast to the rest of Canada’s workforce, temporary workers may face some of the following obstacles: lack of access to accurate information or community and social supports; language barriers; and geographical isolation. These challenges are exacerbated by migrant workers’ fear of reprisal in cases where they exercise their rights.

To this end, the Network, currently piloting in the Canadian province of British Columbia, provides an inclusive platform for migrant workers, employers, foreign and domestic government representatives, and civil society organizations to develop solutions from a variety of perspectives that address the key challenges faced by migrant workers. Likewise, its members seek to better support employers in complying with the requirements and conditions of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program and responding to the unique needs of the migrant workers who they employ. In particular, Network members collaborate in working groups to develop policy, funding, and community action recommendations to respond to the lived realities faced by migrant workers in exercising their rights while in Canada. Four times per year, all members meet at the Network plenary to discuss new initiatives, share best practices, and vote to implement particular working group recommendations. To emphasize the Network’s migrant worker-centered approach, current and former migrant workers members of the Network begin each meeting by voicing their experiences and how the MWSN can better empower this population. Migrant worker participation in the Network is encouraged by hosting some meetings on times and days when workers are available and by providing language interpretation services.

The design of the Network was informed throughout an extensive six-month development phase led by the Government of Canada in consultation with key stakeholders who play a role in migrant worker protections, including migrant workers, grassroots and community-based organizations, settlement agencies, foreign governments, the Government of British Columbia, academics and legal professionals, unions and labour organizations, industry representatives, employers, and federal government representatives. During this phase, these stakeholders –current members of the MWSN – worked together to identify gaps and barriers in migrant worker protections and employer education and construct the Network’s governance model.

While still in its early stages, the Network benefits each member by providing an open and horizontal forum to bring their unique perspectives, issues, and solutions to the forefront of policy-making and community-based action as it pertains to migrant worker empowerment and employer education, particularly in propelling the voices of migrant workers into policy-making discussions. The unique funding model for the Network encourages non-profit organizations to forge partnerships and enhance the knowledge and capacity of smaller organizations to meet the needs of migrant workers and/or employers. This in turn builds trust and capacity among all members, particularly between the migrant worker and employer communities. In turn, the Network assists in preventing mistreatment through employer education and collectively supports workers experiencing wrongdoing in the workplace to exercise their rights with the help of a Network of support organizations. The early results of and lessons learned from the MWSN pilot initiative in British Columbia will inform the Government of Canada’s decision to potentially expand the Network into other provinces and territories across the country and how similar Networks can respond to the unique sectoral, geographical, and community needs to support employers and migrant workers in these jurisdictions.

Innovation Description

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Year: 2018
Level of government: National/Federal government

Status:

  • Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on

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