Guatemala, Guatemala - November 8

Canadian Embassy Meeting

On Cathleen’s last day in Guatemala City she met with a representative of the Canadian embassy.  Working with the Canadian embassy to improve their temporary foreign worker program has been a continuous struggle.  They seem to intentionally distance themselves from the program so they can in no way be responsible for any violations. Even asking for basic data on the numbers of workers from the region seemed to be considered information that could not be shared. They have created walls around the program that virtually guarantees abuses will only flourish.  Despite the many problems in the U.S. foreign temporary worker program, at least the U.S. embassy is very knowledgeable on how it works and often makes a good effort to curb abuses when it is within their jurisdiction. There is no such corresponding effort, or even interest, from the Canadians. Intentional ignorance will not magically lead to a solid, rights-based program. Incredibly, this is the program heralded around the world as the model program. 
At the very least, Cathleen learned more about the structure of the Canadian embassy and how it engages, or doesn't, with the temporary workers. All immigration visas in the region (Belize down to Panama) are processed in Guatemala City. The embassy has no contact with the workers whatsoever. All visa applications must be express mailed to the embassy, even if the worker lives just down the street. When asked what the embassy does if the worker has a question about treatment in Canada or during the recruitment process, the answer was “good question.”  Basically, the workers have nowhere to go to complain about abuses, illegal fees, or even simpler issues such as vacation entitlement.  Global Workers is the only alternative, which underscores the importance of a network of trained advocates who can provide know-your-rights education and legal services to workers.

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