The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business have criticized the lack of an independent appeals process for the ‘extreme’ new penalties imposed on employers who break the rules when hiring foreign workers.
Starting December 1, the federal government will impose stiff penalties on employers who violate the rules of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and International Mobility Program. The penalties will also apply to individuals who break the rules when hiring foreign caregivers.
Employers found violating program conditions will be subject to fines ranging from $500 to $100,000 per violation, up to a maximum of $1 million in a one-year period. Employers could also be banned from the programs for periods ranging between one and ten years, with an indefinite ban imposed in the most extreme cases.
However, along with the stiff new penalties, the government also announced some new concessions for employers. Non-compliant employers will be given a minimum of 30 days to respond in writing to the findings of an investigation, with employers who voluntarily disclose mistakes receiving lesser penalties, or let off with just a warning.
The federal government has also promised to be more lenient in cases where non-compliance is a result of human error rather than malicious intent. Also, the online “blacklist” will be revised to contain only the names of employers who have been found guilty of serious wrongdoing, rather than simple non-compliance.
But despite these concessions, experts warn that the severe penalties and lack of an appeals process could put employers out of business, with individuals seeking to hire a foreign caregiver potentially facing devastating consequences.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, which represents around 200,000 employers across Canada, says the lack of an adequate appeals process is particularly worrying.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), which represents over 100,000 small businesses, said the concessions granted are “a step in the right direction” but also expressed concern over the inadequate appeals process with discretion placed in the hands of the Minister and civil servants.
According to the Canadian Bar Association (CBA), the extreme penalties place absolute liability on employers, and could have extreme consequences. The CBA is calling for the government to develop a comprehensive review process that would include an appeal to a court, or an independent tribunal for cases of non-compliance.
Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre said in a news release last week that the new penalties are intended to protect the Canadian economy and workers.
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