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The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (“TFWP”) in Canada is a government initiative designed to allow Canadian employers to hire foreign workers on a temporary basis when they are unable to find qualified Canadian citizens or permanent residents to fill job vacancies.

This blog addresses protections available to foreign workers who believe they are facing workplace harassment at their workplace:    

What Constitutes Workplace Harassment?

Workplace harassment can be any behaviour that induces fear, control, isolation, all of which form a hostile work environment. These forms of abuse can manifest in many forms, including the following:

  • Physical abuse
    Examples include: assault, forcing or pressuring a foreign worker to work under conditions that are unsafe or pose a risk to the foreign worker’s health.
  • Sexual abuse
    Examples include: unwanted sexual comments, sexual contact without consent, forcing or manipulating the foreign worker into having sex or performing sexual acts, forcing the foreign worker to perform unsafe or degrading sexual acts. 
  • Psychological abuse
    Examples include: insulting, intimidating, humiliating, harassing, threatening, name-calling, yelling at, blaming, shaming, ridiculing, disrespecting, or criticizing the foreign worker. 
  • Financial abuse
    Failing to pay wages owed to the foreign worker, exploiting the foreign worker’s financial resources, closely monitoring how the foreign worker spends money.

Protections Available To foreign Workers Facing Harassment in The Workplace

If you are facing any form of workplace harassment or are at risk of being abused in relation to your job in Canada, you may be eligible to apply for an open work permit for vulnerable workers.

An open work permit for vulnerable workers allows you to work for any employer in Canada, with some exceptions. It helps protect your rights as a foreign worker, enabling you to leave an abusive situation to find a new job. 

It is important to note that an open work permit for vulnerable workers is not a permanent solution, rather a temporary measure. If you are approved, an open work permit for vulnerable workers should give you enough time to find a new employer and apply for a new work permit with that employer. 

Applying For an Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers

You can apply for an open work permit for vulnerable workers if you are inside Canada, have a valid employer-specific work permit, and are being abused or at risk of being abused in relation to your job in Canada. 

As part of the application for a vulnerable work permit, foreign workers must apply directly to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) by filling out an application online. You should read the instruction guide before you complete your application. The guide will explain how to complete each field on the form. The guide can be found on IRCC’s website.

To support your application, it is also important to include evidence. Below is a list of examples that can be included:

  • a letter, statement or report from an abuse support organization, medical doctor, health care professional, etc.
  • a sworn statement, also known as an affidavit, from yourself
  • a copy of an official report you submitted to an enforcement agency, such as a police or Canada Border Services Agency report
  • a copy of an official complaint submitted to a provincial government enforcement agency, such as an employment standards branch
  • victim impact statement
  • email or text messages
  • pay stubs or bank statements
  • photos showing injuries or working conditions
  • witness testimony

Applying For an Open Work Permit for Your Family Members

Family members who came with you to Canada may also be eligible for an open work permit if your application is approved. They must complete their own application but may submit it together with your application.

After you Apply for an Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers

Following the submission of your application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, you can expect to receive contact from them within approximately five business days. This communication should provide details in relation to next steps.


Whether you are an employer or a foreign worker employee who needs assistance with workplace matters, including open work permits for vulnerable workers, we can assist you. Please contact Toronto employment and immigration lawyers, Sultan Lawyers, at (416) 214-5111 or here.