The regulations surrounding the pandemic are a whirlwind of changes and updates for Alberta residents.
Like many others, temporary foreign workers who may not have a firm grasp of the language let alone the laws in Canada are struggling to understand the actual regulations, what they mean and how it will affect them. Through a new program, called the TFW (Temporary Foreign Worker) Support Program, which is implemented amongst some provincial and local agencies, such workers will receive some assistance and advice to help them navigate their individual situations.
Brooks and County Immigration Services (BCIS) and Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS), first introduced the program to the Taber & District Community Adult Learning Association (TDCALA) late last year, at which point CCIS had already formalized their agreement with Economic and Social Development Canada (ESDC). Taber Adult Learning’s role is to implement this support program for the Warner, Taber, and Forty Mile regions.
This program runs from February 1 through June 30, 2021. During this time, organizers are anticipating serving more than a hundred TFWs in the region. This will be in the form of group information and orientation sessions on illness prevention; personal protection; self-care; employee
rights and responsibilities; one-on-one support & referrals to meet the basic essential needs of those affected; resources & services to enable TFWs to exercise their rights; support in areas including but not limited to case management; health and income support referrals; trauma counselling, assistance in applying for benefits; interpretation services; short-term shelter and housing; food, clothing, and transportation for workers in distress.
According to Sydney Cabanas, Newcomers Coordinator, Taber & District Community Adult Learning Association this program is needed.
“Being a TFW in general can be stressful. Historically, there have been fewer supports available to TFWs and other temporary residents than landed immigrants (i.e. permanent residents), refugees, and Canadian Citizens. TFWs also happen to be one of the more vulnerable populations, and many arrive without fully understanding their rights and responsibilities,” explains Cabanas. “Depending on the industry, workers may also arrive with little to no knowledge of official languages, understanding of Canadian systems and structures, or even weather. Something as simple as buying groceries in winter may pose a significant challenge to a worker or family that has arrived with no English skills, no car, no social connections, and no knowledge of the community. In our rural communities, resources aren’t always accessible as in larger cities, public transportation is less developed, and internet connectivity may be difficult.
“Employers, may also have difficulties related to hiring TFWs. Generally speaking, they must always attempt to find a Canadian worker first, and must prove their need to hire a TFW. This process can be time-consuming. Additionally, they are often responsible for attempting to settle their workers. Employers may need to organize social insurance numbers, standard Alberta Health Cards, and community orientations for their TFW workers. In COVID-19 times, they are also typically responsible for arranging for quarantine plans.”
Cabanas adds the past few years have shown a push for services to cover immigrant groups who are usually unable to access IRCC-funded services. COVID-19 has also served to underscore existing needs and gaps in services. Already-vulnerable populations like TFWs may be more severely impacted, and the impetus for more services focused on this group has grown stronger.
This program is connected to Taber Community Adult Learning’s existing Newcomers Settlement Services in Taber, which has served the area since 2017. Organizers there plan on capitalizing on existing infrastructure and connections to facilitate the introduction of this program. CCIS has also provided most of the ESDC approved materials and frameworks to get the program off the ground.
To assist with this particular program, Taber Adult hired two new individuals (Wille Abad, Lucy Krahn) to specialize in TFW casework. The support services will be available in English, Spanish, Tagalog, Low German, and High German. Other languages can be accommodated through the TDCALA’s partnership with CCIS.
Cabanas says Taber Adult Learning has been around long enough and have done a lot of past work with employers that they can move forward with this TFW Support Program and have their effort reciprocated.
“Because (Taber & District Community Adult Learning Association) is an organization with several different departments, we have cultivated multifaceted relationships with employers. We have offered professional development, facilitated employees’ access to skill and educational upgrading, hosted upgrading services, and helped to connect job-seekers with employers,” explains Cabanas. “However, I think for this project, we will be reaching out to employers we have never worked with, before. Generally, we have connected with employers in Agriculture sector in the Taber and MD of Taber areas. This will be a great opportunity to focus on Warner and Forty Mile, as well.
“We are trying to focus on agriculture and agricultural processing, given our region’s proclivity to those industries. This does not mean, however, that we would turn away those who are from other industries, or even workers who are not TFWs. If they do not quite fit the specifications of the program, we at TDCALA will do our best to find some way to help.”