Sunday, August 13, 2006

On selective jurisdiction

The Cons are once again attempting to disguise ideology in claims of jurisdictional helplessness, as the CP reports that the federal Human Resources department is refusing to deal with the concerns of temporary immigrant workers by pretending they should be the provinces' problem:
(M)any academics, unions and non-governmental groups that assist foreign agricultural workers say the labourers often must be subservient if they want to return to Canada annually, although they enjoy exceptional salaries compared with their home-country earnings. The fact that they have basically no social ties in Canada means they are ready to work almost whenever needed.

Toronto's ecumenical group Kairos says workers often lack English or French and are isolated in rural areas, so they don't know how to protect their rights. They sometimes put up with sub-standard housing and unsafe working conditions, a Kairos report says.

Heather Gibb of Ottawa's North-South Institute says she wants the government to look at how the workers are treated.

he institute conducted a major study of similar, long-standing agriculture programs for Mexican and Caribbean workers and concluded that, while foreign workers in theory are protected by the same law as Canadians, in practice it's difficult for them to communicate their concerns or have them investigated...

Human Resources says worker concerns fall under provincial jurisdiction, but will be considered during the assessment of the program. The department acknowledges that since the Mexican and Caribbean projects began in 1966 and 1974 respectively, it has never examined how workers' concerns and complaints have been addressed.
Note that there doesn't appear to be any similar attempt to explain away responsibility for dealing with the concerns some businesses have about the scheme. But when it comes to the concerns of temporary immigrant workers themselves - whether or not there's a means of dealing with those concerns through the same program which brought the workers to Canada - the federal position seems to be one of utter disinterest. At best, the feds seem willing to "consider" the workers' interests while warning against any willingness to act...and even that's a step up from the existing legacy of ignorance.

It's not clear from the article whether the Libs invoked similar arguments or simply failed utterly to address the issue, though judging from their record the latter explanation appears more likely. But once again, the Libs' failures shouldn't serve as an excuse for the Cons to avoid responsibility for the federal government's role. To the extent that foreign workers are currently being mistreated as a result of a federal immigration program, the buck most certainly stops with the federal government. And any attempt to claim otherwise can only be judged as a show of false respect for the provinces which should cast all the more doubt on the Cons' honesty in the future.

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