On October 10th the federal Conservatives proposed some regulatory changes which they claim address the “rising concern for the fair treatment of temporary foreign workers”.
The Feds say that prior to announcing these changes they met with stakeholders, including foreign workers and their employers, and that “the majority of consultation participants have been supportive of (the) proposed amendments”.
No doubt, some of the proposals may indeed have a positive, albeit marginal, impact on the protection of foreign workers. For example, officers will now have to adhere to more rigorous background checks of Canadian employers, and their recruiters, who seek to hire foreigners. Few can take issue with this since it is the equivalent of mandating the use of common sense. While this is welcomed when dealing with employers who are not well known or established, it may very well create a layer of additional red tape, and cost, to Canadian employers who are reputable and well-established.
Employers who have breached previous employment contracts with foreign workers will now be ineligible to hire foreigners for two years and may now see their names published on a “wall of shame” on CIC’s website. It’s unclear how much additional protection this approach will offer since government officials already deny further work permits or Labour Market Opinions in situations involving such employers.
In connection with the Live-In Caregiver Program, employers will need to prove that they need the caregiver, that they have the ability to pay his/her wages, and that they have private accommodations for them. In practice, these issues have largely been dealt with for years. Now, they will simply be mandated by formal regulations.
At best, these proposals constitute nothing more than a mere tinkering of our existing legislative framework marketed as an attempt to protect foreign workers.
At worst, they constitute a smokescreen for a terrible proposal which will make foreigners ineligible for a work permit if they have worked in Canada for “one or more periods totalling four years”. Furthermore, once they have worked for four years here, they will have to wait another six years before they are eligible for another work permit. There will be an exception made for those who are able to create “significant” benefits or opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents and those who are working in Canada pursuant to an international agreement.
Currently, foreign workers do not face any time-limits provided that their Canadian employers can still prove that they cannot find Canadian workers to fill the available position. This proposal will not offer any protection whatsoever to foreign workers. It will undoubtedly hurt not only Canadian employers during these recessionary times who stand to suffer a disruption in their workforce but also hurt their foreign workers who might not qualify for permanent residence here under our existing rules.
In May of this year, Parliament’s Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration issued a report which included 36 recommendations on how to improve our Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The vast majority of these recommendations have been ignored in this proposal.
However, one such recommendation was not just ignored, it was completely contradicted. The Committee called for the establishment of a “path to permanent residency for all temporary foreign workers” in Canada. With respect to this recommendation, the government is going in the absolute opposite direction. Instead of permanently settling foreign workers who have been working here in unwanted positions, our government will now be rewarding these workers with expulsion after four years and banishment for six years thereafter.
Which stakeholders, exactly, were the Conservatives listening to when they came up with this bright idea?
I’d love to know.
– Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at [email protected].