Protest for migrant workers' rights draws small crowd in Charlottetown

A small group of Islanders participated in an assembly at noon Monday in front of Province House calling for rights for migrant workers in Canada.

'It's the rules of the program that need to change to make sure people can enforce their own rights'

About a dozen people protest for migrant workers' rights outside Charlottetown's Province House. (Lindsay Carroll/CBC)

A small group of Islanders participated in an assembly at noon Monday in front of Province House calling for rights for migrant workers in Canada. 

The rally is part of a week of actions to call attention to the federal government's review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and was organized by the PEI Action Team for Migrant Workers' Rights.

"They're not allowed to change jobs, they have restricted access to rights and services, and that puts them in a very vulnerable situation where they can be exploited," said spokesperson Josie Baker, addressing the crowd of about 20 people. 

"So I think that really it's the rules of the program that need to change to make sure people can enforce their own rights." 

'Possibility to stay here'

Most people know very little about how the Temporary Foreign Worker Program shapes the lives of migrant workers, added Baker.

Similar events are scheduled in Canadian cities this week. (Pat Martel/CBC)

"We hope the review committee will make decisions to improve the human rights of everyone working in Canada, and give P.E.I.'s migrant workers the possibility to stay here, if they choose." 

The PEI Action Team includes members of the public as well as representatives of the PEI Food Security Network, the Council of Canadians and the Cooper Institute.

Similar events are scheduled in Canadian cities this week by groups calling for "a reversal of Harper-era policies; an end to employer-tied work permits, and granting of status on arrival in Canada."

Baker, who works with the Cooper Institute, said there were about 700 foreign workers on P.E.I. last year, down 300 from the year before.