“Caught in the Same Webs”Service Providers’ Insights on Gender-Based and Structural Violence Among Female Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada

  • Chantal RobillardEmail author
  • Janet McLaughlin
  • Donald C. Cole
  • Biljana Vasilevska
  • Richard Gendron


Drawing on the experiences of service providers supporting live-in caregivers and migrant agricultural workers in two Canadian provinces (Ontario and Quebec), we explore how structural violence shapes the precarious conditions of female temporary foreign workers. Service providers emphasized how transnational social pressures on women to maintain employment, the captivity involved in women’s employment contracts, the limits on unionization, and women’s isolation and lack of privacy, act together to create an unbalanced relationship between the employer and female worker. In turn, this leads to precarious migration and work conditions that foster a vulnerability to violence and abuse while at the same time limiting access to and delivery of services and social support to female temporary foreign workers. Amid these restrictions, service providers focus on making a difference where they can through initiatives such as human rights education workshops, offering support, understanding Canadian regulation, and empowerment workshops. Greater Canadian national options for permanent residency status could provide a basis for adequate services to temporary foreign workers as part of their universal human rights. Temporary foreign workers contribute to Canadian society, making it encumbant upon the Canadian state to ensure the respect of their universal human rights.


Migrant women Temporary foreign workers Precarious work Abuse Structural violence Access to services 



We would like to thank Dr. Philip Kelly from York University for his precious support in reviewing policies regulating the TFWP. We also would like to acknowledge the contribution from our research coordinators, professionals, and assistants to data collection and analysis, as well as overall management of the project: Pauline O’Connor, Alexandra Ricard-Guay, Maya Shapiro, Josephine Eric, Marilyn Ouellet, Didier Dupont, and Gabrielle Perras Saint-Jean. Most importantly, we would like to express our gratitude to the participants without whom this study would not have been possible.

Funding Information

The project received financial support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research-Institute of Gender and Health (CIHR-IGH). The project could not have succeeded without the precious support from its partners: Association des aides familiales du Québec, Centre de recherche et de formation (CRF) of the Centre de santé et services sociaux (CSSS) de la Montagne, Centre d’appui des travailleurs agricoles de Saint-Rémi (ATA), Justicia for Migrant Workers, Migrant Workers Resource Centre (Hamilton), and Agriculture Workers Alliance (Canada).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Signed informed consent was provided in keeping with ethics approval from the Centre de santé et des services sociaux de la Montagne, the Université du Québec à Montréal, and the Wilfrid Laurier University ethical review boards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SexologyUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Health Studies ProgramWilfrid Laurier UniversityBrantfordCanada
  3. 3.Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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