Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the government doesn’t want immigrants taking jobs that unemployed Canadians are available to do. He added that Canada will not allow the creation of a “permanent underclass” of foreign workers filling jobs here for long periods with no hope of citizenship.
The comments came during an appearance with Philippine President Benigno Aquino as he justified a clampdown on the temporary foreign worker program in Canada.
Due to a four-year limit imposed on how long temporary foreign workers can remain in Canada, thousands of workers are now being forced to return to their homelands.
Harper defended the changes by saying that the government doesn’t want immigrants taking jobs that unemployed Canadians are available to do.
“But just as importantly, we are making sure that when people come to this country to work and to work long term, they have the ability to move towards being permanent citizens of this country,” Harper said.
“This country is not going to have a policy, as long as I’m prime minister, where we will have a permanent underclass of temporary, people who are so-called temporary, but here forever with no rights of citizenship and no rights of mobility.
“That’s not the Canadian way we do immigration. So we’re going to make sure that that program does not drift in that direction.”
On April 1, 2011, the low-skilled workers lost their work permits due to a policy that was introduced requiring any temporary foreign worker who has been here for four years to leave.
In July 2014, the government moved to further restrict the use of foreign workers after criticism that the influx of these workers was causing lower wages and leaving Canadian workers unable to find work.
In 2013, 27,292 permanent residents were admitted to Canada from the Philippines, ranking third behind China and India. The two leaders used their recent meeting in Ottawa to announce that Canada and the Philippines would begin “exploratory” about a potential free trade deal.
Harper also announced that Canada would provide just over $3 million for security initiatives in the Philippines, including port and maritime security and the deployment of Canadian police trainers.
President Aquino thanked Canada for its humanitarian help in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, which killed an estimated 6,000 people. Canada dispatched military personnel to assist citizens displaced by the devastation and pledged $90 million in aid.
Canadians looking to hire foreign workers as nannies are having to face unexplained delays due to changes introduced to the caregiver program. The problems are exacerbated by poor communication from federal agencies, with some recruitment agencies reporting that no applications have been processed in the past four months.
Canada’s Live-in Caregiver program was a part of the Temporary Foreign Worker program, and was widely used by Canadians to hire nannies and other caregivers. It would usually take up to 6-8 months to hire a caregiver, but the recent changes to the program have lead to further delays and confusion.
Under the new rules, foreign care workers are no longer required to live in the homes of their employers. Other changes to the application process were also introduced in a bid to encourage more Canadian applicants for these jobs, following claims that the program had “mutated” into a family-reunification scheme. Now any family that is interested in hiring a foreign caregiver is required to show that there were no Canadian applicants available for the said job by applying for a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
Once the family gets an approval on the LMIA, they can then apply for a work permit to hire a foreign caregiver for the job.
According to one family applying, he spent four weeks trying to find a Canadian nanny, but didn’t get a single application for the job. He then applied for an LMIA – twice, after the first application was lost by the government agency responsible.
When queried about the delays, Employment and Social Development Canada claims that in February, 80 percent of all LMIA applications received were processed within 30 days. However they were unable to provide LMIA processing times for just the caregiver program.
Some believe the latest changes to the caregiver program were an ill-conceived knee-jerk reaction to problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary
The previous Caregiver program has a long history of controversy including exorbitant placement fees charged to both caregiver and family, excessive delays in processing, abuse of caregivers and an inflexible system. In 2014 new rules took effect which created two separate streams of permanent residence (Caring for children and Caring for People with High Medical Needs) and placed annual quotas on the numbers of caregivers who can apply for permanent residence under each stream at 2750 for a total of 5500.
According to the parliamentary budget office reported last week, the number of temporary foreign workers (TFW) in Canada tripled between 2002 and 2012, but they still made up less than two per cent of the overall labour force. The report said an increasing number of foreign workers are filling skilled positions today as the percentage of low-skilled jobs has declined.
The PBO study looked at the role foreign workers played in the economy between 2002 and 2012.
Foreign workers can enter the labour market through either the international mobility program or the temporary foreign worker program, which came under fire last year after allegations surfaced about some employers, especially restaurants, abusing the program.
Employers who want to hire temporary foreign workers must get government approval under what is called a local market impact assessment. The assessment means the government generally knows the skill levels of the workers. However, almost 70 per cent of foreign workers are exempt from these assessments under the mobility program.
The report said 85 per cent of the foreign workers in low-skilled positions were in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario and were concentrated in smaller communities.
“Alberta’s share has increased significantly since 2002, while Ontario’s has declined by almost 15 percentage points,” the report said. “Interestingly, the relative importance of foreign workers in the labour force appears to be higher in small centres than in large census metropolitan areas.”
The study said a significant number of foreigners work on farms, in restaurants or as babysitters or nannies, jobs on the low end of the pay scale. Employers don’t seem willing to raise wages in these areas, so they are forced to rely on either unemployed domestic workers with few skills or foreign workers, the report said.
The characteristics of the foreign work force have changed since the 2009 recession. Before then, most of the growth was in low-skilled jobs.
“Since then, the number of workers in low-skilled positions has declined by 20 per cent, while the number in skilled positions has increased 20 per cent. As a result, by 2012, the majority of foreign workers were in skilled positions.”
The Conservative government introduced new rules in June to limit the number of foreign workers that large- and medium-sized companies are permitted to hire in a bid to ensure Canadians are first in line for jobs.
Liberal critic John McCallum said the report confirms that the program has driven down middle class wages and displaced Canadian workers.
“We must restore the program back to its original purpose: to fill acute job shortages when qualified Canadian workers absolutely cannot be found,” McCallum said in a statement.
From 1 April 2015, a change to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program could see some migrant workers refused work permits. The change should be scrapped because it would force an exodus of foreign workers from B.C., says an advocate.
On April 1, 2011, the federal government introduced legislation known as the “four in and four out” rule, limiting how long some temporary foreign workers could work in Canada to four years. The first temporary foreign workers to whom the rule applies could reach their four-year limit on April 1, 2015.
After that, they must wait another four years, either outside Canada or in Canada as a visitor or student, before they can be granted a fresh work permit. Previously, temporary foreign workers who came to Canada under the low-skilled stream could reapply to continue working for their Canadian employer.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has made an exception for TFWs approaching their four-year limit in Alberta, offering a bridging permit if they applied for permanent residency under the Provincial Nominee Program by July 1, 2014. Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney has said Ottawa is willing to extend similar measures to other provinces.
CIC lists several situations in which workers may be exempt from the four year rule including:
- Management and professional workers, including spouses and dependants
- Workers exempt due to international agreements, Canadian interests, self-support, humanitarian reasons
- Workers doing jobs which do not require a work permit
- Permanent resident applicants who have received a positive selection decision or approval in principle
- Provincial nominees applying for an employer-specific work permit
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary:
The effect of this policy will substantially add to the numbers of undocumented immigrants in Canada. There are currently approximately 150,000-200,000 undocumented illegal immigrants in Canada.
New measures are coming into effect from 21 February that will impose additional fees and restrictions on Canadian employers looking to employ certain types of foreign workers. The Canadian federal government announced the move after reviewing several scandals the sector has seen in recent months.
The new rules will apply to intra-company transfers, employees entering Canada under NAFTA, employers hiring through the International Mobility Program, and employees hired through reciprocal agreements with other countries, like working holiday schemes.
Under the new rules, Citizenship and Immigration Canada requires employers to pay an “employer compliance” fee of $230, and provide details about their company or organization as well as the original offer of employment, in order to be allowed to hire a foreign worker without a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). An extra $100 fee will apply to employees in possession of work permits.
In a statement, CIC has said, “The fees collected will offset the cost of introducing robust employer compliance activities featuring inspections of thousands of employers.”
Experts warn that the new rules may go against NAFTA conventions, and could also significantly hamper business operations throughout Canada, while critics argue that the system has not been explained properly and lacks transparency.
However the federal government has defended the changes by highlighting some of the abuses of the previous programs carried out by employers over the past few months. In one case, employers brought skilled Irish workers using work-holiday visas in order to get around the LMIA precondition. In another case, the Royal Bank was found to have used the intra-company transfer system to apply for visas for Indian workers to replace their Canadian employees in 2013.
According to the CIC, employers could now face substantial penalties if they are found to bring in foreign workers using false declarations.
The new rules are an attempt to apply the same level of scrutiny to foreign workers exempt from the labor market assessment as temporary foreign workers are subjected to. Statistics show that foreign workers entering Canada without a labor market assessment under the International Mobility Program have outnumbered temporary foreign workers, with almost 140,000 workers coming to Canada through the International Mobility Program as opposed to less than 85,000 temporary foreign workers.
Elaborating on the changes, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said, “Our government is committed to reforming its work permit programs to encourage the hiring and training of Canadians, limit the use of foreign workers in Canada to those situations where it is a benefit to Canada, and ensure that abuses of the program or of foreign workers by employers will be detected and dealt with.”
Despite criticism that the changes have been announced without sufficient stakeholder consultation, union organizers who helped expose abuses of the International Mobility Program have welcomed the changes as an attempt by the government to rectify the problems with the current system.
Documents have been released showing that the Conservative government knew the temporary foreign worker program was causing pressure on youth employment almost a year before reforming the program. In an August 2013 briefing note for Employment Minister Jason Kenney, department officials warned that industries which commonly employ young Canadians are also among the employers hiring the most temporary foreign workers.
The document, prepared shortly after Kenney was appointed to the department reads, “Five of the top six industries that employ the most youth were also in the top half of (temporary foreign worker) program users.”
Critics of the temporary foreign worker program have raised concerns that employers were hiring lower-paid foreign workers, rather than Canadian workers. Kenney’s office says reforms made in June 2014, almost one year after the internal briefing, have specifically addressed the issue.
The industries listed as employing a large proportion of youth and foreign workers include accommodation and food service, construction, information and cultural industries, as well as the unspecified “other services.”
The internal documents were obtained by the Opposition New Democrats under access to information law. According to the NDP, the documents prove the governing Conservatives were aware of problems with the temporary foreign worker program, especially the issues related to youth employment , but took no action until media reports exposed abuse of the system.
Alexandra Fortier, Kenney’s director of communications disputed the opposition claims saying that the government’s June 2014 overhaul of the system directly addressed the issue of employers hiring lower-paid foreign workers over young Canadians.
The documents note that excluding young people from entry-level positions delays the development of the so-called “non-cognitive” skills people pick up on the job: self-management, teamwork, persistence and problem-solving, among others.
The national youth unemployment rate was 13.3 per cent in December, the same as a year ago and almost double the national unemployment rate of 6.6 per cent. In 2012 Canada fell near the average for youth unemployment among OECD countries, with 20.1 per cent for those aged 15 to 19, and 11 per cent for those aged 20 to 24. Certain groups faced higher unemployment rates, including aboriginal youth (20.9 per cent), recent immigrant youth (22.7 per cent) and youth with disabilities (23 per cent).
The federal government has granted an exemption to Microsoft Canada that will allow it to bring in an unspecified number of temporary foreign workers to British Columbia as trainees without having to first look for suitable Canadians candidates. Microsoft Canada will not be required to perform a labour market impact assessment (LMIA), a rigorous process that would include a search for Canadians who could fill the positions.
A notice posted on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website says foreign workers will receive specialized training in a new human resources development center in the province. The exemption was granted under a provincial-federal agreement. The Canadian government argues the arrangement is the result of a significant investment by Microsoft that will create jobs for Canadians as well at a new 400-person training centre.
Legal observers however, have noted that the decision appears at odds with the government’s promise to crack down on abuse in the system in order to protect Canadian jobs.
“There is certainly no justification that I can see that would support granting an exemption to a large number of foreign workers to come into Canada to take away jobs that could easily filled by Canadians. On the one hand, the government is telling us they are protecting Canadian jobs; on the other hand they’re signing agreements with big corporations in which they’re allowing them to bring in foreign workers.” said Toronto immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman.
The notice that announced this exemption for Microsoft under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program was posted on Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s website (CIC). It also mentioned that foreign workers will be given 24-month work permits to allow them to stay in Canada ‘until they are transitioned by Microsoft into a new position elsewhere’. This exemption will give Microsoft a significant competitive advantage and it is worth noting that many other tech companies that also offer training are not being given such an exemption.
Waldman said, “There is no other exemption that is specific to a corporation, and it does not fall within any of the other categories where exemptions are normally given. The effect is to create a new category: the Microsoft Exemption.”
Microsoft Canada did not immediately respond to questions about the deal. However, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, Karen Jones, mentioned in an interview earlier this year with Bloomberg Businessweek that this deal will allow Microsoft to bypass stricter U.S. rules on visas for foreign workers.
“The U.S. laws clearly did not meet our needs. We have to look to other places,” she went on to say Microsoft didn’t choose to expand in Vancouver “purely for immigration purposes, but immigration is a factor.”
The government argues that hosting the Microsoft Centre of Excellence in Canada will also provide training opportunities for Canadians and will create long-term jobs that would not exist otherwise. The department did not indicate how many temporary foreign workers Microsoft intends to bring in each year, but said the number would increase “over time as the facility becomes fully established.”
Waldman argues that the fact that new Microsoft employees will be trained here means the company can’t argue there’s a skills shortage that requires them to bring in foreign workers.
“Why can’t we have Canadian trainees hired by Microsoft?”
In June 2013, when Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney made reforms to the temporary foreign worker program, he emphasized provinces would not get a free pass when it came to the new rules, despite the longstanding side agreements that allowed this exemption.
Source: CBC News
Canada’s immigration policies offer Canadian permanent residence and fast track work permits to more than 500,000 applicants each year and Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney says it’s an unacceptable waste that skilled workers who come to Canada can’t find jobs. But the problem is not due to a lack of employment opportunities.
It is the non-recognition of foreign credentials that poses the biggest problem for migrant workers looking for work in Canada. Addressing this issue in West Vancouver, Kenney announced a $3.3 million funding package for the B.C. government to improve the recognition process of foreign credentials, thus helping more immigrants find work.
This funding aims to cover over 30 projects that will help remove the barriers faced by newcomers who are trained overseas, with a particular focus in B.C. especially in the energy and resource sectors.
These projects include helping employers remove obstacles for new Canadians entering the workforce, making available more information online that promotes in-demand jobs in Canada and working with regulators to hasten the credential-recognition process.
According to B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton, with one million expected job openings in the province by 2020, it’s not good to let a group of people languish who are skilled but not certified in Canada.
Kenney also wants the government to benefit from the “dysfunctional” American immigration system, which includes attracting young graduates from abroad by offering an expedited visa track to this country.
Two new reports are suggesting that Canada’s impending labour shortage might not be as severe as experts had been warning for the past several years.
This fall both the Toronto Dominion Bank and Montreal’s Institute for Research on Public Policy released reports suggesting that there is little evidence supporting the labour shortage theory.
Despite repeated warnings of labour shortages, both from the Canadian government trying to justify policy decisions as well as from employers who claim to be having difficulty finding the workers they need, economists say there is little evidence to support such claims.
The TD report looked at job vacancy rates across the country, as well as shifts in wage patterns, and found that despite the continued growth in the Prairies, employer demands in the West are being offset by unemployment in other areas of the country.
“We definitely don’t have broad labour shortages right now, because we still have effectively more workers looking for work than there are positions,” said Cliff Halliwell, author of the Institute for Research on Public Policy report. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t places, say, in Northern Alberta, where they’re facing difficulties hiring workers or in specific occupations.”
In fact, employers looking to fill precisely those positions are often the ones who raise the shortage issue, and look to the temporary foreign worker program to find the labour they need. So far this year the government appears to be bringing in more temporary workers than last year, with recent program changes expected to spark continued interest in the program.
Experts say that policy-makers would be better off focusing their efforts toward increased training and skills matching, rather than trying to grow the overall labour pool.
Source: Globe and Mail