P.E.I. marked low on foreign worker treatment

Prince Edward Island received some of the lowest marks in Canada in a new report card on the treatment of temporary foreign workers.

Prince Edward Island received some of the lowest marks in Canada in a new report card on the treatment of temporary foreign workers.

The report, prepared by the Canadian Council for Refugees, says migrant workers on P.E.I. have little access to information about their rights, are given no support services, and are isolated by geography and language. Only in access to health care services does the province score above a C.

Legislation protecting foreign workers is falling behind other provinces, says Josie Baker, and housing is also a concern. (CBC)

Josie Baker of Charlottetown's Cooper Institute, a development education group, said the report card shows the other Maritime provinces are making inroads when it comes to foreign workers, leaving P.E.I. behind.

"Because in Nova Scotia they've put in a worker recruitment and protection act that is sort of still coming into play, and in New Brunswick they do offer settlement services and language courses for temporary foreign workers as well, and that's not something that's available in P.E.I.," said Baker, who recently authored a report for the Cooper Institute on temporary foreign workers.

The CCR report said housing conditions for farm and fish plant workers are also a major source of concern.

The number of temporary foreign workers in the province has more than doubled in the last few years, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, from 467 in 2008 to 1,119 in 2012.

A vulnerable workforce

The provincial government is still considering legislation to protect temporary foreign workers, changes it first promised in 2008, said Labour Minister Janice Sherry.

Sherry said her department, along with the departments of Innovation and Health, have been meeting to discuss what needs to be done to ensure workers receive their rights.

"They're pretty vulnerable, when you look at it from the perspective that you just mentioned. Language barriers, they have no knowledge of the communities, you know, they have no supports around them," said Sherry.

"Those are some of the questions that we're looking at from an employment standards perspective."

Sherry said the province has been trying to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with the federal government to get it to share the names of businesses where temporary foreign workers are employed.

Currently the province doesn't have access to that information.

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