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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Temporary foreign agricultural worker exploitation in Ontario and British Columbia : why differences in provincial labour policy matter Henshaw, Beatrice Edith


Temporary Foreign Agricultural Workers (TFAW) in Canada have a heightened vulnerability to exploitation and workplace abuse under the Federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). Despite TFAWs admittance to Canada through one of four agricultural streams in the TFWP, TFAWs deal more closely with provincial labour law, statutes, and policy. This thesis explores why TFAWs are more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and whether differences in provincial labour policy contribute to heightened rates of exploitation. By employing the Labour Law Approach, this thesis seeks to understand the scope and severity of TFAW exploitation in Canada. Ultimately, this thesis makes two arguments. First, the current employment rules afforded to TFAWs in both Ontario (ON) and British Columbia (BC) provide insufficient protections and safeguards for the rights of TFAWs. Second, the current Labour Law Approach is unable to capture the scope and severity of the exploitation that TFAWs face in Canada. A qualitative case study based approach is utilized throughout the thesis by drawing upon Statistics Canada vignettes, legislative review, document review, and tribunal and court decisions. Ultimately, the research demonstrates that differences in provincial labour policy do affect the levels and kinds of exploitation TFAWs endure within the province they work. Occupational and safety standards that outline the rights of TFAWs in both ON and BC largely prove inadequate and further entrench TFAW vulnerability and precarity. Although BC ensures greater workplace protections for TFAWs than ON, workplace exploitation and abuse remain a serious concern in the province. Reforms to policy are recommended. Researching this reality through the Labour Law Approach proved concerning as it is likely unable to capture the full scope and severity of TFAW exploitation. By measuring abuse and exploitation through legal avenues for recourse, the Labour Law Approach misses the many instances of TFAW abuse that go unreported. Reforms to this approach are suggested; namely, to incorporate aspects of other frameworks aimed to understand labour exploitation and to utilize qualitative methods to further comprehend these experiences. Future research should employ qualitative methods that centre TFAWs as active agents in their resistance to workplace abuse and recommended policy solutions.

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