Addressing Workplace Abuse: Resources for Immigrants in Canada

By Andres Massot

No matter how workplace abuse occurs, it results in negative consequences for those affected in terms of psychological, physical, financial, or social well-being. While workplace abuse can affect anyone, studies show that immigrants are disproportionately affected by abuse at work. Lower rates of reporting workplace abuse among newcomers highlight the need for increased awareness of employment standards, working rights, and options available to those facing workplace abuse.

A survey on workplace harassment by Statistics Canada demonstrates that immigrants report workplace abuse less frequently than Canadian-born individuals, despite being more likely to experience it. The survey further states that 35 per cent of immigrant women and 20 per cent of immigrant men reported having experienced abuse in the workplace. In comparison, 52 per cent of Canadian-born women and 36 percent of Canadian-born men reported workplace abuse.

Newcomers often do not have the support and access to resources they need to address workplace abuse. This lack of support often prevents them from effectively dealing with such situations. It also increases their vulnerability to bullying by those wanting to exert their status of privilege in the workplace. In addition to other challenges, language barriers, lack of familiarity with immigration and working rights, and the fear of retaliation or deportation prevent newcomers from reporting incidents, resulting in significant underreporting.

According to Calgary-based immigration lawyer, Rowan Fisher, temporary foreign workers often choose not to report workplace abuse for fear of losing their jobs. Many of them believe that if they lose employment, they will be in violation of their work permit conditions and will no longer be eligible to stay in Canada.

For newcomers, workplace abuse can involve racial and discriminatory implications. Their immigration status, language, and culture can also impact how they are affected by workplace abuse. Differences in culture and language can contribute to power imbalances, making it more difficult for newcomers to connect with coworkers and create social support networks, which are important for addressing workplace abuse.

If you believe you are facing any form of abuse at work, please report it by visiting:

Additional Resources:

  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)  has a webpage and video to help vulnerable foreign workers apply for an open work permit. This page is available in multiple languages and has a quick exit option for users who need to leave the page quickly.
  • Alberta Human Rights Commission has a page for making a discrimination complaint.
  • The Canadian Immigration Institute hosts a free live Q&A on YouTube every Wednesday for an hour and has several free videos covering numerous immigration topics. They also have a blog and podcast.
  • To stay updated with Canadian immigration policy and practice, new content, and upcoming events, consider subscribing to Holthe Immigration Law’s newsletter.

About the Author

Andres is a second-generation Canadian immigrant from a Latin American family. He is a University of Calgary graduate with experience in the e-commerce and nonprofit sectors. Andres is an avid musician and currently works as a Partner Success Specialist at Immigrant Services Calgary.

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