International Stories Backgrounder

Read the Indigenous Stories Backgrounder
Read the Interprovincial Stories Backgrounder


Who are the people in these stories of International Migration?

This set of stories is about people who are residents of another country and who travel to Canada to work. Most of them have entered the country to work under one of Canada’s temporary foreign worker programs.

Over 8700 temporary foreign workers (TFWs) were employed in Alberta in 2017, down from a high of over 40,000 in 2013. These workers performed many jobs, including childcare, cleaning, cooking and food service, retail sales, and farm and construction work.

How did you create these stories out of your research?

Temporary foreign workers often faced exploitation and social isolation while working in Alberta. Due to the vulnerability of temporary foreign workers, the stories in this section are composite stories. Composites are fictionalized stories that are based upon what the researchers and community partners learned during the course of the On The Move project in Alberta.

These composite stories illustrate the kinds of challenges faced by temporary foreign workers and the ways in which they cope with these challenges. In developing these stories, we identified the most common and important issues facing international migrant workers in Alberta. We then discussed the stories we’d heard and read about that were relevant to each topic.

From this information, we selected the most compelling and analytically insightful incidents and combined them into fictionalized stories. The resulting composites are an accurate portrait of international migrant workers’ experiences that protect the identities of individual workers. To ensure that the composite stories accurately portray the experiences of international migrants, we had the stories reviewed by a migrant worker with extensive experience both as a worker and an activist in Alberta. Several stories were also used as materials in an English language course for migrant workers and were thus revised by dozens of temporary foreign workers and migrant caregivers. These workers attested to how the stories were often reflective of their own work experiences in Canada.

What is most important to you about the relationship between work and mobility in these stories?

The most salient theme that arose during our research and community work was the vulnerability of migrant workers to exploitation by employers and their limited ability to exercise the workplace rights that Canadians take for granted. This vulnerability reflects the temporary nature of migrant workers’ residency in Canada.

While migrant workers are often subject to wage theft, workplace injury, and human trafficking, these workers are not without agency. They choose to work in Canada because it is the best option available to them and their families. And they have responded to poor treatment in a number of innovative ways. The effectiveness of these efforts is deeply undercut by the minimal effort that the federal and provincial governments make to enforce their laws.


Sara Dorow
Jason Foster
Marco Lucianco
Lori Shortreed
Alison Taylor
Cynthia Palmaria
Don Mojica
Ramazan Nassery
Cindy Julaton
The Alberta Caregivers’ Association- ACA-Mig

And, most of all, to the many migrant workers who shared their stories with us.