A stop-gap approach to immigration?

Karen's picture

Recently, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney expressed surprise that the demand for temporary foreign workers has not gone down since the recession.

The Globe and Mail reported Minister Kenney as saying, “I expected to see a decline, but I was quite surprised to actually see demand for temporary foreign workers steady in the first quarter of this year, and down only slightly in the second quarter.”

However, this steady demand for temporary foreign workers should not be surprising to Minister Kenney at all. This steady demand is, in fact, the inevitable result of the temporary foreign worker program and the current government’s approach to immigration.

The program was developed seven years ago as a means to fill jobs shortages quickly. Initially billed as a way to provide workers quickly for the Alberta oil boom, the program grew to welcome over 100,000 workers in 2004.

But now the program has become so much more. In 2008 alone, 193,000 temporary foreign workers came to Canada, almost equal to the number of permanent residents Canada accepted.

This increase has occurred in part because of changes to Canada’s immigration legislation. In 2008, the government introduced a fast-track option for employers seeking temporary foreign workers. Employers seeking to hire temporary foreign workers must first apply for a Labour Market Opinion with Human Resources and Services Development Canada, which establishes that there are no Canadians available to fill those jobs.

This process usually takes five months, but under the new Expedited Labour Market Opinion program, it takes a mere five days. And once it is established that a need exists, there is no need to reapply. With these new arrangements, employers are able to find labour faster, and it will likely be cheaper than hiring Canadian employees. Also, because they do not need to reapply, there is no way to verify if the need changes or Canadian workers are now available.

This same legislation gave the Minister of Immigration discretionary powers to give preference to certain occupations in the immigration selection process.

And this leads to the second reason why it is no surprise that the demand for temporary foreign workers has remained steady. There has been a clear increase in temporary foreign workers, while the number of immigrants and permanent residents has plateaued. This increase reveals a significant shift in focus of Canada’s immigration program, from recruiting skilled workers who would become permanent residents, to focusing on temporary workers who come to Canada on short work visas and perform low-skill jobs.

An unsurprising problem

These reasons are cause for concern. This focus on filling temporary work is at best a stopgap measure, and reveals a deep problem in the way Canada welcomes newcomers and in how we build our country.

How we welcome newcomers – temporary or not – is not just about cheaply filling temporary work. It is also about what we offer to them once they are here – for higher skilled workers, this comes in the form of permanent residency.

Temporary foreign workers, on the other hand, are not offered the same opportunity. Our responsibility to them seems to start at the beginning of their contract and end once the work is done. The danger then lies in what happens next: they can return home and always reapply for the program, or, if they do not qualify for immigration, they can disappear into the growing ranks of illegal immigrants within Canada.

In order to prevent this group from growing further, Canada needs to develop a different response. While a Canadian Experience Class has been introduced into immigration policy, allowing temporary foreign workers to apply for permanent residency without leaving Canada, Carol Goar points out that “most low-skilled foreigners had little hope of meeting Canada's admission criteria. That meant they would either have to leave or attempt to stay illegally.”

A May report by the Citizenship and Immigration committee of the House of Commons recommended some changes. First, it recommended the creation of a “path to permanent residency” accessible to all temporary foreign workers. For families of temporary foreign workers, the committee recommended they be eligible for an open work permit in Canada.

These and other recommendations would go a long way in changing how temporary foreign workers are welcomed into Canada. It would also go a long way towards building a sustainable employment force, rather than focusing on the stopgap option that is temporary work.

Immigration reforms are rumoured to be imminent this fall. As part of these reforms, developing a cohesive, thoughtful approach to immigration, including those we welcome on a temporary basis, would bring much needed life and welcome to our current system.

Karen Diepeveen is CPJ's former Communications Coordinator.

Comments

Submitted by Niall Rice on
The reason why people come into Canada on temporary work visas is because they are not eligible for a <a href="http://www.globalvisas.com/countries/canada_visas.html">Canadian skilled worker visa</a>. They are obviously filling a gap in the job market, as the laws governing their working conditions etc. were just changed this week. The only way you could resolve what your article is aiming at is to allow people to work in Canada without being on the skills list, and I don't think this will happen, the reason being the temporary work visa allows the Government to have control on the immigration process.

Submitted by Carol on
we have to stop immigration now as its completely out-of-control. We need to clean up our own Backyard and help our own homeless and unemployed Born and bred Canadians to get back on their feet before we can Ever reach out to help Anyone else. I'm not working to pay taxes to help Illegals come into this country and reep all the benefits that our forefathers have worked so hard for. Many of these immigrants are Criminals that are in gangs and pushing drugs out on our streets to our children and I'm Frankly Tired of it. I want Immigration Reform now for Canada. Not to mention all the immigrants that have worked so hard to get into this country through Legal means, this is a slap in the face to them as well.

Submitted by Visitor on
canada should let low skilled workers to app ly for canadian residency easier bsimply because they do everything in a legal way and they are indeed a good help for the canadian employers. they are reliable and hardworking. other than nominee program there should be n easier way for them to apply .what canada should stop is the accepting of refugees far war related countries they are the mist ake they are rude and impolite have you guys noticed that? its not good for canada sorry i was posting this using my phone

Submitted by Visitor on
canada should stop the temporary foriegn worker program immediately. we really dont need more foriegn housekeepers using the limited esources we have for canadians. they stay here illegally and find under the table jobs and just all around use up the resources which could be better spent elsewhere.employers abuse this program. i know this as my previous company would get me to fill out the applications for temporary foriegn workerss when we had 200 plus canadian applications...

Submitted by Visitor on
Canada has seen totally unjustified immigration rates over the past 30 years. Don't believe a word of the nonsense floating around about Canada needing more immigrants to take menial or low paying jobs. Or the lies about Canada needing more foreign nurses, doctors or any other professional. Just call your local iniversity's medical program, and ask how many hard working Canadians got rejected last year. Thousands every year! Look at how government has failed to support our own boys and girls trying to get an education and a good job. The reason immigrants are allowed to stay is because the ultra-wealthy prefer cheap labourers, rather than paying Canadians fair wages. Government helps them do it because they know the Wealthy control the economic system. This is bad, bad, bad for Canadians. It boils down to an unfair distribution of wealth and power. Even in a recession, government lets in ridiculous amounts of foreign labourers. Until we wake up and realize that all their excuses are just cover stories for the 5% of the population that owns 95% of this country, our Canadian birthrights will continue to be sold out from under us.

Submitted by Human on
Its ONLY the immigrants who are also providing cash jobs and doing cash jobs, they come here to out country use our wealth and mock us, end of the day its we who pay tax and its them who use the most of it. only if a educated immigrant applies with a job letter from a recognized company which provides tax paying jobs is accepted then he shd be given permission to enter the country. Students come here and do cash jobs in any indian r pakistani owned stores and they apply for PR and ask the government to provide funds for the studies and they live their life without paying tax, in what way this is going to serve canada ? 95% of the immigrant students dont have money to support themself, so they do cash jobs and once they start making money they provide cash jobs for the other immigrants and this continues...How is the government of Canada or CRA getting profit ? There are few immigrants who work and pay their tax, but its more than half % who come to canada to use the facilities here and to do illegal things. I wish some one who changes the rules in immigration comes to power and brings a change. Why cant the immigration ask the students to show proof in the bank account in Canada every six months or something like that to stop cash jobs. Or give students jobs which will also help the country ,, tax paying jobs, In Hamilton all students do cash jobs. In Winnipeg too the gas stations and convenience stores run by immigrants provide cash jobs. these people who do cash jobs shd be deported. and who give cash jobs shd be given serious punishment or shut down their business. Only when punishments are severe crime rate will become low. Or in the near future, there will be only corruption everywhere in Canada like other countries. Someone who reads this think.

Submitted by Natasha on
My parents and I immigrated to Canada in the early 80's . We came here for a better life, that meant being a Canadian, not bring our country's garbage with us, not fighting to change the laws, rules and regulations to suit our needs based on what we were used to in the country we chose to leave. We work, pay our taxes, maintain our properties, and engage our all neighbors. We are sick of immigrants who leave their mother land and bring their detrimental baggage with them. They come looking for a hand out like Canada and the hard working tax payers owe them, jobs, homes, money, training etc... They push and demonstrate in the streets to change the laws, they lobby the government to send tax payers money to help their home country. They play the race card and demand the government loosen the reins on immigration to include the multitudes of their family who will inevitably drain welfare, because the can not or will not work and contribute to the growth of our society. The worse part is they move into the neighbourhoods and devalue the surrounding property values and then look at you with that look on their face, that you are something so disgusting to them and they are going to make you pay even more in the long run. There is a difference between the kind of immigrants who come here, some of us truly want to stand beside our brothers and sisters and raise a country to be to the heights that it can be, to be a home. Then there are those who are parasitic locusts who will bleed it dry of any good that it once had. Leaveing a devastated wasteland like their home country. Some leave the land of their birth to find their home. Some never leave their home country, they bring it with them to subject all others to it's failings. We are saddened by what we see our government allowing to happen. They break and change Canadian laws in order to get votes and it's only going to get worse. If anyone speakers against it, you'll be deemed racist, if you protest, you'll be deemed racist. I don't know if the wheel can be turned back. The flood is building. We left the land of our birth for a better life, something that governed all it's people under one rule of law and justice, one charter of rights and freedoms. What is now happening to Canada is not what we came here for. So, what now? How can we change this? Can we band together and defend Canada and can we be patriotic? Oh yeah, we will be deemed racist. I am a brown skin woman and I don't buy into the race card garbage.

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