The Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act of Canada is a law implemented on March 22, 2010. It covers live-in caregivers and other workers in Canada, and it is aimed at protecting the said workers from the abuse of agencies that promise to find them an employer for a steep amount of money.
A Little Background
So what does the new law prohibits exactly? The required setup is this: it is the employer who will pay the agency money for finding a worker for him. However, some agencies establish an arrangement with employers, whereby the employers pay and then deduct the amount paid from the salary offered to the workers – so it happens that it is actually the workers who paid for their entry to Canada. Plus, the agency charges the workers a steep amount of money right from the start of their application.
The law has made that illegal. It prohibits agencies from charging money to the worker or applicant for any service offered, especially the following:
• Finding employers for them
• Assisting them with job application-related tasks such as completion of resume or preparation for interview
• Any assistance offered for immigration
Under this new act, agencies are also prohibited from asking workers to opt out from the law. They also cannot threaten workers who assert their right using this law. Those who violate this can be fined as much as $50,000 and be imprisoned for a year, and that only applies to individuals. Larger agencies can be fined higher and given heavier punishment.
Despite this new act, however, many agencies still continue to charge fees to workers. Even after a few years after the implementation of the act, little has changed.
Ignorance Puts Workers at a Disadvantage
One reason this abusive practice continues is the fact that most foreign workers and applicants are not aware about the new law; most of them think that paying an agency is already part of the process – and so they pay without question. Sometimes, they even pay willingly and with gratitude thinking that the agency is providing great help; they are simply not aware that they are being abused.
Most applicants are also outside Canada. So, unless they know someone who knows Canadian labor laws or they do extensive research, they have no way of finding that such a law exists.
Sometimes, when a worker finds out about the new law and confronts the agency about it, the agency will even resort to lies. Among the most common lies agencies tell are:
• That the amount paid by the applicant is not for finding employer; it is merely for paperwork or administrative processes
• That the amount paid is for filing the Labour Market Opinion and for processing all other related paperwork
The truth is that the agency cannot charge any amount to the worker, so the agency cannot have any excuse. All payments are supposed to be shouldered by the employer.
The Need for Employment Forces Workers to Take Chances
There are instances when workers and applicants willingly pay a large sum of money, even if that is illegal, just to get inside Canada. Some of them even agree to risky setups that put them at a disadvantage. The most common of these setups is one that makes the worker an RUA worker – a worker that is released upon arrival.
In this setup, an agency finds a ghost employer, an employer who will help the agency process the needed paperwork and give a work permit to the worker. But, after all the money the worker offered as payment, when he arrives in Canada there is no work waiting for him; he is not hired. He is released upon arrival in Canadian soil, and he is on his own; it is up to him to find a job.
This works for people who are skilled and who are confident that they can find a job on their own once they reach Canada. They just apply in various companies and when they’re admitted, their new employer takes over the work permit. It doesn’t matter that the workers already spent a lot of money for nothing, as long as they enter Canada. This might have worked for some people, but not for so many who suffered upon their arrival in Canadian soil.
Some Horror Stories
There were stories of workers being brought to Canada without any employer waiting for them. The workers weren’t aware that they’re scammed, so they’re surprised to find out that there’s no work for them in the country. The agency promises to find them an employer in a few days, but for the meantime they stay in uncomfortable locations such as basements and they’re required to pay rent.
Days can stretch into weeks, and the workers continue to pay rent without getting anything in return – no work as promised by the agency. Sometimes the time will come when the agency is able to find an employer for one of the workers, but the worker will find out later on that the salary is way lower than promised and will not even suffice to cover for all the expenses paid just to get to Canada. At other times, no employer is found and when the workers complain, the agency will threaten that they’ll report them to the Ministry of Labour and they’ll be deported.
In other instances, a worker initially pays money to the agency and then refuses to pay some more upon learning about the law. So, even if he is already given a work permit, the agency asks the employer to cancel the employment offer – sometimes without the knowledge of the worker. So when he reaches Canada, he is denied entry.
In some cases when the worker is aware that he is participating in a scam and his entry to Canada is not legal, the agency uses the opportunity to continue to extort money from the worker. If the worker refuses to pay, the agency threatens that they will report the worker’s illegal entry to Canada so that he can be deported. In these cases, either the worker continues to pay or he leaves the province so that he cannot be tracked and ventures into his own search for employer somewhere else, always at risk of being discovered by authorities and deported anytime.
If you want to avoid being a victim of scammers, be sure you get to know the law before you apply for any work. And if you have been a victim of scamming or have been charged a fee by an agency with the promise of finding you an employer (and whether that agency was able to provide you with an employer or not), you can report to the Ministry of Labour (1-800-641-4049).