The Road to Illegality? Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada


April 5, 2012 :: Glenda Bonifacio
Moderated by Kristal Frank

The business model of Canadian immigration policy has dramatically resulted in the rise of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) through a combination of federal and provincial labour migration schemes. In Alberta, TFWs even surpassed the number of “landed immigrants” in 2006. The limited work visa issued to employers, not the worker, and structural barriers in place to regulate their mobility imply that TFWs will eventually return to their home countries when labour demands decline; they have become Canada’s “disposable labour.” Or, do they really return home?

International labour migration is not premised on the idea of a “holiday-cum work tour” akin to the popular western “backpacker.” After investing their own resources, the 1-2 years stint as TFW do not make sense. It is plausible that after the expiration of work permits, TFWs search for alternative routes ---the road to illegality. If TFWs are vital to the delivery of services, the choiceless workforce contributing to taxation (but cannot make demands for their own welfare), and make Canada competitive in the global stage, why not grant them independent legal status as full-fledged immigrants?

Speaker: Glenda Tibe Bonifacio

Dr. Glenda Tibe Bonifacio is Associate Professor in the Department of Women & Gender Studies at the University of Lethbridge. Her research focuses on gender, migration and citizenship of Filipino women, and the connections between gender, religion and migration. She is editor of the book Feminism and Migration: Cross-Cultural Engagements (2012), co-editor of the book Gender, Religion and Migration: Pathways of Integration (2010), as well as author of numerous scholarly articles.


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