Opposition Motion – Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I am concerned about the whole concept of a temporary foreign worker program in relation to what it means for foreign workers.

We do need immigration to Canada. We do need people coming from around the world to enrich our society. In the past, those people had rights. Once they were living in Canada, working in Canada, they could access those rights.

I want to put for the member for Brampton West a specific example. In the case of the XL beef plant, a large part of the workforce, I understand, was temporary foreign workers, largely from Senegal.

In that plant, one worker on the line was required to handle 300 carcasses an hour and was supposed to clean his or her knife between each piece of work he or she did. Had those been Canadian workers, I believe they would have said to the boss that they could not clean their knives between each job they had to cut up a carcass and that they could not do 300 carcasses an hour and keep up with the workload.

However, because they knew if they complained, the temporary foreign workers might find themselves on the first plane back to Senegal, we ended up having the E. coli scandal that threatened the health of the Canadian beef sector.

I ask my friend whether we can look at the larger question. Do we want to encourage a program in which we ask people to come to Canada who have no rights, no rights to complain, no rights to do a good job, no rights to seek the protections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Also, do we not want to give those jobs to Canadians first?

Kyle Seeback: Mr. Speaker, I will reiterate what I said earlier. Of course these jobs should be for Canadians. As I said in my speech, the temporary foreign worker program is for absolute and acute labour shortages. The program is not designed for foreign workers to come in and take the jobs of Canadians.

With respect to allegations of what is going on in the workplace, all businesses in our country are governed by many pieces of legislation that govern what goes on in the workplace.

In Ontario, there is the Workplace Safety Act and there is the Employment Act, which regulates the amount of hours people have to work and the working conditions. All those pieces of legislation are for the benefit of whatever worker is in the country. If those things are going on, there are remedies for those workers, whether they are Canadian workers or temporary foreign workers.