Jenny Kwan: protection for OFWs in Canada needed during pandemic

Jenny Kwan
Jenny Kwan, MP for Vancouver East.

Jenny Kwan, Member of Parliament for Vancouver East, serves as the New Democratic Party (NDP)’s immigration critic and health critic. She wrote to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, asking for protection for temporary foreign workers, including OFWs in Canada, during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Kwan said that the Canadian workforce, which includes foreign workers, is unevenly protected.

She cites foreign workers’ lack of access to Canada’s healthcare system as a significant barrier.

She said that temporary foreign workers must be afforded the same access to healthcare that other Canadians receive, in order to protect their well being.

Kwan suggests that health card application requirements and waiting periods be waived as soon as possible, calling it irresponsible and reckless to withhold access to healthcare services at a time of crisis.

The Government of Canadahas taken steps to improve access to Employment Insurance (EI), but have yet to make any announcements specific to temporary foreign workers.

Many temporary foreign workers do not qualify for EI, despite changes made by the government, which includes the removal of the one-week waiting period.


Hundreds of thousands of workers, including OFWs in Canada, will still struggle to access EI benefits at a time they need it the most.

While health experts and government officials are telling people to self isolate and practice social distancing, Kwan recommends that the government take steps in helping make this happen.

She said that the coronavirus outbreak in Canada exposes that need to improve temporary foreign workers’ access to improved paid leave, and that changes must be made to EI to make it more responsive to the needs of people in precarious work positions, such as temporary foreign workers.


EI is automatically deducted from the salaries of every worker in Canada, including temporary foreign workers.

Kwan finds it unfair that temporary foreign workers, including OFWs in Canada, are having such a difficult time accessing their benefits.

Kwan said that the reinstatement of paid sick days is important for every worker in Canada, and that companies must make sure that they follow the rules and regulations of their province’s employment standards.

In 2018, there were more than 338,600 temporary foreign workers in Canada.

Kwan and her colleagues at the New Democrat Party (NDP) are calling on the Government of Canada to act now, citing the need to help everyone, including temporary foreign workers.

The Government of Canada is now allowing temporary foreign workers, including OFWs from the Philippines, to come back to Canada, as long as they meet the minimum requirements for doing so.

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