Mexican authorities provide little guidance to workers on the recruitment process for work abroad when conducted by private recruiters. Government officials acknowledged to us that they undertake few outreach and information initiatives on the issue, and attributed this to a lack of resources. Workers told us that their key sources of information about migration were their personal networks, social media, and the local offices of the National Employment Service (SNE). Mexico devotes greater effort on providing guidance to workers on how to enrol in government migration programmes than on how to ensure their recruitment by private operators does not leave them vulnerable to abuse. Workers departing Mexico through government programmes - the SAWP or the LMM - receive pre-departure training. However, stakeholders, including workers, have expressed concerns that the training is not as thorough as it needs to be, and that as a result workers can leave Mexico with limited insight into their rights under Canadian law.
There is an abundance of information about labour rights, including for migrant workers, at both the federal and provincial levels in Canada. Information is available, for example, on all employers that receive positive LMIAs, giving them authorization to hire migrant workers. Nevertheless, given the division of federal and provincial areas of responsibility, it is very difficult for migrant workers, or indeed experts, to navigate and keep up to date with all the policies related to immigration, worker protections, and labour recruitment under the respective jurisdictions of the federal government and the 13 provinces and territories. Mexican migrant workers we spoke to said that they do not generally look for information on Canadian government websites, and that they rely instead on social media. The recently-established Migrant Worker Support Network (MWSN), a multi-stakeholder initiative being piloted in British Columbia, organizes quarterly face-to-face meetings involving migrant workers, federal and provincial officials, worker advocacy groups and unions, consulates, employers and recruiters, and also coordinates the provision of information to migrant workers at airports on arrival. The MWSN, which the federal government recently announced that it will expand into other provinces, is the best example of good practice in Canada in relation to the provision of information to migrant workers. A 2017 House of Commons committee review on trafficking made better provision of information to migrant workers a key recommendation and suggested that by doing so, Canada could avoid having to reform its closed, “employer-specific” work permit system. However, unions, civil society organisations and academic experts told us they feel such initiatives can only have limited impact without wider structural changes in relation to workers’ protections under labour legislation, their rights to unionisation and the employer-specific work permit.
Recommendations to the Mexican government:
- Provide more information to Mexican migrant workers and job seekers, through government websites, offices of the SNE, and other means, about licensed labour recruiters, the risks of fraud and fee charging in the recruitment process, and information on effective complaint mechanisms in Mexico and destination countries.
- Work with the Canadian government and with Mexican and Canadian civil society organizations to provide additional information to SAWP workers prior to their departure, particularly in relation to Canadian labour protections and Canadian federal and provincial complaint mechanisms.
- Develop collaborative initiatives with universities and civil society organizations so that transnational support networks are built to support migrants and their families.
Recommendations to Canada’s federal and provincial governments:
- Proactively push information to migrant workers on available federal and provincial worker protections and complaint mechanisms in multiple languages through Visa Application Centers and/or initiatives like SUCCESS under the Migrant Worker Support Network, noting that almost all workers interviewed told us that they were not aware of available Canadian protections; that they were not aware of information in Canadian government websites; and/or that they did not speak English or French.
- Proactively communicate relevant information to migrant workers regarding federal and provincial/territorial protections and complaints mechanisms. Workers provide the federal government with mobile numbers as part of the work permit application.
- Adjust standardised LMIA confirmation letters to proactively provide additional information to migrant workers in multiple languages on conditions placed on employers under the TFWP (for example clarifying that it is prohibited for workers to be required to pay for travel and recruitment costs, either upfront or through salary deductions), federal complaint mechanisms, and other information that is currently not included in LMIA letters that may be of assistance to workers.
- Expand the Migrant Worker Support Network pilot nationally, and seek to engage a wider range of Embassies and Consulates of migrant workers, including from countries that do not have bilateral agreements with Canada.