Province said the proposed law would strengthen protections for migrant workers
The Ontario government has introduced the Working for Workers Act, 2023, a bill that would impose the highest maximum fines in Canada for withholding a foreign national's passport or work permit.
The province claimed the proposed legislation would strengthen protections for vulnerable and migrant workers by establishing the highest maximum fines in Canada for businesses and individuals convicted of withholding a foreign national's passport or work permit. Offenders could face a $100,000 to $200,000 penalty for every worker whose rights are violated.
"Anyone who preys on vulnerable members in our community has no place in our society," Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton said in a press release.
"If you think you're going to deny someone's basic human rights by withholding their passport, we will hit your pocketbook, and you will be behind bars for a long time. We will continue to use every tool in our toolbox to ensure Ontario is a province where hard work pays off, and big dreams come true," McNaughton added.
The proposed legislation would allow for penalties to be increased for each passport or work permit a business or person withholds. The government warned offenders could quickly face millions in fines for their illegal actions.
Individuals convicted of withholding passports would also be liable to a fine of up to $500,000, up to 12 months imprisonment, or both. Corporations convicted would be liable to a fine of up to $1 million.
The Working for Workers Act 2023 also included proposed changes to protect remote workers during mass terminations and expand the reasons reservists can take military leave. The government is also proposing amendments to require women's-only washrooms on construction sites and to expand cancer coverage for firefighters.
The government is also proposing amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), which would increase the maximum fine for corporations convicted of an offence under the OHSA from $1.5 million to $2 million. This would give Ontario the highest maximum corporate fine under Canada's workplace health and safety legislation.