For those of you who follow my reports frequently you may recall a previous incident I reported on that involved a dance instructor located in the Merritt area who was in Canada working under the temporary foreign worker program. Unfortunately due to what can be described as a series of administrative errors and the slow turning wheels of bureaucracy, ultimately the instructor was required to leave Canada for a period of time before the situation could be resolved. As I also mentioned in that same report the temporary foreign worker program is not an immigration program meaning that there are fewer avenues available to address challenges such as these when they occur.
I am happy to report that after a rather significant amount of effort across the board, this dance instructor has again returned to Canada and hopefully in the near future will resume providing dance lessons to children in the Nicola Valley. Throughout this process one of the challenges that I observed is the requirement for Government to ensure that all terms and conditions of a program are in compliance. Part of the compliance process requires producing many documents that verify information that has been requested. This is of course can be frustrating for all involved not to mention time consuming and at times it can be easy to overlook why such a thorough verification process is established.
Over the course of this summer another situation arose in a different community involving temporary foreign workers, although this time in a different program related to seasonal agricultural workers. As is often a limitation in these situations there is not a significant amount of information that can be shared, however what can be passed on is that two seasonal agricultural workers found themselves in an unacceptable and deplorable situation. In this case an intervention occurred and fortunately these workers are no longer in a perilous situation however I believe it is also important to recognize that it was the good nature of kind hearted neighbours who became aware of this issue and took action on it.
Whenever these situations occur it is in my view important for elected officials to review the circumstances and related policy to try and ensure that a similar situation does not occur again in the future. I have heard of the importance to our agriculture sector from a number of small and medium sized farm operations and other businesses who rely heavily on this program to remain viable and competitive. It is also imperative that we not overlook the importance for government programs to provide transparency so that members of the public can support a process with confidence. No citizen or government would tolerate these kinds of abuse, whether it is localized or widespread. The industry itself must also recognize that it is in its own best interest to continue to encourage best practices and not just compliance. In other words, a balance must be created that is workable for farmers and for seasonal agricultural workers that will retain broad public support. This is an area I believe is deserving of more attention and I would like to welcome your comments on this or any other subject before the House of Commons.
Before I close this report I would like to sincerely recognize the efforts by local citizens, who in spite of language barriers came together to help two individuals who were truly in need. This act of kindness made a difference and will not be forgotten by the individuals involved. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.