'Fear no more': Liberal government takes steps to help foreign workers, newcomers escape abuse

Beginning next week, foreign workers can leave abusive job situations with open permit

Original Article: CBC News  |  Kathleen Harris  |  May 31, 2019

The Liberal government is taking a series of steps to help migrant workers trapped in an abusive workplace and newcomers to Canada who are victims of family violence.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced Friday that as of Tuesday, migrant workers with an employer-specific permit can apply for an open work permit so they can escape a work situation where there is violence, harassment or other abuse.

When an application is made for an open work permit on grounds of abuse, the employer will also face a compliance inspection. More than 160 employers found in violation of labour standards and were subject to a financial penalty or a ban on hiring foreign workers.

Beginning July 26, newcomers who are victims of domestic violence can apply for a free temporary resident permit that will give them legal immigration status in Canada. That will include a work permit and health-care coverage. In "urgent" situations of family violence, the government will expedite the process by allowing people to apply for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

The new permit process is open to foreign nationals who haven't yet landed permanent residence status, and whose status is depending on their abusive spouse or partner.

This fall, the government will also launch a two-year pilot project: a refugee can sponsor an immediate family member who they had not previously declared, in an effort to reunite families.

In a news release announcing the initiatives, Hussen said that under existing rules, newcomers who failed to declare immediate family members when they first came to Canada were barred from sponsoring them.

"Today, we right that wrong," he said. "No worker should fear losing their job when they are being mistreated n their place of work. No partner should be more fearful of losing their immigration status instead of escaping abuse. Today, we say 'Fear no more.'"

Earlier this year, Hussen announced new pilots for foreign caregivers to replace programs that had been harshly criticized for keeping nannies trapped in abusive workplaces and apart from their families.

Under those two new five-year initiatives, caregivers are allowed to bring family members with them to Canada, and it's easier for them to become permanent residents.