Wave of appeals from dismissed immigrants to Justice Pro Bono, notably for permits for vulnerable workers

Temporary workers are calling for help in large numbers to an information line of the Justice Pro Bono organization dedicated to them. Among them, many are asking if they can access an open permit in a context where the emergency program for vulnerable workers is blocked.

The duty revealed last Friday that the program supposed to help workers who have a closed permit escape abuse has been experiencing significant delays since January.

Open permit applications should be processed as a priority, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), but processing times extend to several months. These delays no longer allow the program to fulfill its role as a valve and protection, say several organizations. Workers who try to leave an abusive employer are therefore plunged into even greater financial and psychological misery, as several workers have testified in recent months.

“There has been a wave of job terminations in recent months, and a lot of workers are consulting us,” explains Caroline Dufour, coordinating lawyer for support for temporary foreign workers at the Justice Pro Bono organization.

She, too, has noticed increasingly long processing times for the same program since “about the second half of the fall.” Despite the fact that the IRCC promised for four years that files would be processed in five working days, it “has rarely seen this deadline respected”. IRCC quietly removed this mention from the program page and tells us that the delay is currently on average 52 days.

Without much publicity and after only one year of existence, the Justice Pro Bono legal information line is more popular than initially expected. “Initially, when I arrived, we wondered how we were going to inform [le public] of the existence of our service. We didn’t do anything in particular, but the line is really overflowing,” explains Me From the oven.

These hundreds of workers have not only called to request open permits, she specifies, but this is one of the frequent reasons for consultation. In recent months, “a lot of people have consulted us because they have been laid off, made redundant or fired,” she notes. They find themselves stuck, because to continue working, they must apply for a new closed permit. “It’s long and complex, because you have to find another employer who is ready to take the steps,” she says.

Rare options

One solution may be to turn to the open permit program. The latter is reserved for victims of violence, whether physical, psychological, sexual, financial or in the form of retaliation. Not everyone is therefore eligible.

Being fired or laid off is not in itself a reason to declare oneself “vulnerable,” but other factors surrounding these ends of employment sometimes are, she explains.

“We will first demystify the program for the worker, because it can be confusing. […] Is there anything beyond dismissal that could constitute violence? Did any irregularities exist? Or is it purely a dismissal within the margins of the law? » lists the lawyer.

When workers call, “they sometimes let situations drag on for a long time because they didn’t know it was illegal. They consult us because they already have problems and feel abused.” It can also be difficult to compile files due to lack of written proof. “If someone reports missing pay slips, they are simply not receiving them,” she gives as an example.

This information line does not submit requests to the IRCC program for each call. Me Dufour is nevertheless supporting a few people in this matter at the moment: one of these requests has been in processing for more than two and a half months. “It’s very problematic because people don’t have jobs while they wait. Every day is important. »

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