$1.4M plan to help foreign workers

Alberta's temporary foreign workers -- which number in the tens of thousands -- will finally get some much-needed government help.

On June 1, the provincial government quietly launched a $1.4-million pilot project to help temporary foreign workers settle in the province.

The two-year project will give money to nine immigration organizations across the province, allowing them to expand their services to include temporary foreign workers.

Previously, government funding for centres that help immigrants was earmarked for immigrants only. But at least 23,000 temporary foreign workers have flooded into Alberta over the last few years and when they seek help from such centres they are often turned away.

"This is a long overdue step in the right direction," said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

Temporary foreign workers are especially vulnerable to exploitation, McGowan said. He calls them an "underclass of workers" because many of them face the threat of being shipped home if they complain.

The Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers receives about a dozen inquires from temporary workers every day, said executive director Jim Gurnett. Questions range from where to find housing to how to deal with abusive employers.

Calgary Herald, Fri July 11 2008
Byline: Jennifer Yang

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