Alberta’s reliance on temporary foreign workers to solve an ongoing labour shortage has created a new class of “disposable” people, a federal committee on immigration heard in Edmonton yesterday.
Yessy Byl of the Alberta Federation of Labour said the program, which allows a company to sponsor a foreigner to fill a temporary job shortage, is “inherently exploitative” in nature.
“We are saying to people, ‘we just want your work, you are disposable. As soon as you don’t want to work, you leave,’” she said.
Byl, along with several union and immigrant groups, addressed the House of Commons standing committee on citizenship and immigration yesterday. The committee is holding hearings to examine the boom in Canada’s foreign worker program.
But as foreigners flood the Canadian job market, some are questioning what to do with the thousands who’ve arrived here illegally because they don’t qualify for the temporary worker program or can’t pass a stringent immigration test to become a permanent resident.
Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi said the rise in undocumented foreigners started booming in 2002 when Ottawa changed the point system for immigration, making it harder to come to Canada.
But since the illegal immigrants are already here, he suggested the time is right to consider offering the estimated 200,000 of them some form of amnesty — but only if they have been contributing to the economy.
“If we sent them all home tomorrow the country would go into a recession,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense when we have this whole backlog (of immigrants) to spend all this time and energy trying to deport people.”
Tory MP and committee chairman Norman Doyle said no one really knows how many undocumented workers are residing in Canada, but the committee will make recommendations on what can be done on the whole issue, along with temporary foreign workers, later this year.
The committee will travel to Winnipeg tomorrow before continuing east, holding public hearings across the country until they wrap up their work in St. John’s on April 17.