Ontario's labour minster says the “scumbags” abusing migrant workers will be found, fined and put behind bars.
Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton announced Monday that the province is proposing the highest maximum fines in Canada for businesses and people who are convicted of withholding a foreign national’s passport or work permit.
"While most employers care about their workers, some continue to take advantage of them, including illegally holding their passports and work permits. This obviously leaves workers vulnerable," said McNaughton. "Migrant workers are afraid [of repercussions from employers]. That's why every possible chance I get, I tell migrant workers that they're protected under the labour laws here in Ontario. Please, come forward if there's injustices out there."
Under the Working for Workers Act, 2023, offenders could face a $100,000 to $200,000 penalty for every worker whose rights are violated. Individuals convicted of withholding passports would be liable to either a fine of up to $500,000, up to 12 months imprisonment, or both. Corporations convicted would be liable to a fine of up to $1 million.
McNaughton said far too often in Ontario, migrant workers have their passports withheld by their employers, including a recent case involving York Regional Police.
"They did a bust where 64 migrant workers were being abused, their passports and work permits were being held. If this legislation passes, in that circumstance, it would be at least $6.4-million in fines and hopefully jailtime for these culprits that are doing this injustice out there."
McNaughton said with the launch of the ministry's anti-labour trafficking division 18 months ago, there's now about 45 investigations ongoing and they've recuperated lost wages for more than 3,000 workers.
"So it is making a big difference, but this is a problem not only in Ontario but across the country. But again, to those scumbags out there, we want them fined and we want them behind bars."
Individuals who are aware of labour trafficking or have been subject to labour trafficking, can contact the ministry at email@example.com.