Government of Canada Releases ‘What We Heard’ Report on Temporary Foreign Worker Accommodations

December 1, 2021              Gatineau, Quebec              Employment and Social Development Canada

Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) are entitled to the same workplace conditions and rights as Canadians and their health and safety is a major priority for the Government of Canada.

The Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough today released a ‘What We Heard Report’ summarizing feedback from consultations on employer-provided accommodations in the agriculture sector to help guide further improvements to the TFW Program.

Canada’s provinces and territories generally have exclusive jurisdiction over the development of accommodation-related rules and regulations, including housing standards. In some cases, this responsibility is delegated further to municipalities. This makes it challenging to ensure that employer-provided housing conditions for temporary foreign workers are consistent across the country. While the vast majority of employers take the health and safety of their temporary foreign workers seriously, there have been instances where workers were found to be living in unacceptable conditions.

While stakeholder views differed on the adequacy and practicality of proposed accommodation requirements for employers in primary agriculture, some key themes emerged:

  • Give further consideration to provincial/territorial and local jurisdiction;
  • Recognize different styles of accommodations and rural settings;
  • Establish ratios (e.g. on the occupancy and use of sleeping quarters, living spaces, washrooms, and kitchen and laundry facilities) that are consistent and evidence-based; and
  • Be the same for seasonal and year-round workers where possible.

Stakeholders also called for improvements to the federal inspections regime, and for the federal government to help address the financial implications of new requirements.

In response to the findings, the Government of Canada will begin developing in 2022, in consultation with provinces, territories and key stakeholders, proposed program changes focused on addressing the most pressing health and safety concerns related to temporary foreign worker accommodations. These will require that employers providing accommodations demonstrate explicit proof of compliance in their housing inspection reports to Employment and Social Development Canada against key accommodations and housing standards already in place in their province, territory, or community. Work to implement these changes will be done in close collaboration with other jurisdictions to ensure temporary foreign workers – including those working hard to support the agricultural sector and secure Canada’s food supply chains – have safe and healthy accommodations.

These program changes will build on a separate set of proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations that were pre-published in the Canada Gazette in 2021. Taken together, the proposed program changes will aim to prevent bad actors from participating in the program, strengthen the Government of Canada’s ability to effectively conduct inspections and apply penalties for non-compliance, and protect vulnerable temporary foreign workers. 

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