Canada tightens rules on hiring temporary foreign workers

Ministry takes action after firms target cheap overseas labour at the expense of Canadians

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 2:45am


Canada has announced a tightening of rules for hiring temporary foreign workers after a public outcry over abuses that saw Canadians losing their jobs.

"We're concerned about examples of the programme not being used as intended. Canadians must always have the first crack at available jobs," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said. "The temporary foreign worker programme was intended to fill acute labour shortages on a temporary basis only, not to displace Canadian workers."

Under the programme, businesses were allowed to hire foreigners until they could train Canadians to take over.

But changes last year aimed at streamlining the programme - including shortening the period an employer had to advertise a job locally and allowing firms to pay foreigners less - led to an explosion in its popularity.

At a time when 1.4 million Canadians are looking for jobs - the number of temporary foreign workers in the country more than doubled to 330,000. Abuses first came to light in early April when IT workers at Canada's largest bank, RBC, publicly lamented being asked to train foreigners to do their jobs.

RBC chief executive Gordon Nixon later apologised. But the controversy grew as more people came forward, including pilots, miners and fast-food servers.

The new changes to the programme include raising the fees charged to employers to apply to hire foreigners, no longer allowing foreigners to be paid five to 15 per cent less than Canadians and making English and French the only languages that can be identified as a job requirement.

In October, a Chinese-funded coal mine in British Columbia had specified job applicants for mining positions who could speak Mandarin.