The fate of thousands of temporary foreign workers facing deportation beginning April 1 emerged as a high-stakes national issue, with small business urging Ottawa to let them stay and the federal government threatening to track down any who try to go underground.
Many low-skilled people who came to Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program are now expected to leave the country as a result of a clampdown by the Conservative government. While Ottawa has refused to provide details, it is estimated the numbers run into the tens of thousands.
As the rule of the four-year ban of re-entry took effect, the federal government warned temporary foreign workers who are due to leave that they will be dealt with swiftly if they try to go underground to avoid leaving Canada.
“Let there be no mistake: We will not tolerate people going ‘underground.’ Flouting our immigration laws is not an option, and we will deal with offenders swiftly and fairly,” Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre said in a statement.
The new policy was introduced on April 1, 2011 and requires any temporary foreign workers who have been in Canada for four years to leave. They are also barred from returning for four years under the “4-in-4-out” rule.
Approximately 70,000 workers currently in the country will have to leave, according to the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, which projected the estimates based on the number of work permits issued four years ago and foreign workers who had already been working in Canada before then.
The clampdown has prompted widespread complaints of unfairness and future chaos in business.
Some organizations have called for a temporary moratorium on the intake of foreign workers from abroad and a path to permanent residency for those, including the ones in low-skill and low-wage category, who are already here.
Chris Ramsaroop of the Justicia for Migrant Workers said, “Today’s decision to deport tens of thousands of migrant workers represents one of the most inhumane actions undertaken by the Conservative government during its years in power. Rather than provide permanent residency and the opportunity to continue to build our communities, the government has chosen to repeat the mistakes of the past by following what previous generations of elected officials have done: demonize, criminalize and dehumanize the same racialized migrant workers who have built our railways and built the wealth of this nation,” he told the Star.
In their statement, Alexander and Poilievre said, “Employers and foreign workers have known about the four-year time limit since 2011, when this policy was announced.