Canada cracks down on foreign worker program abuses

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Apr 30 2013 08:45 AM | Updated as of Apr 30 2013 04:45 PM

OTTAWA - Canada announced Monday 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 program not being used as intended. Canadians must always have the first crack at available jobs in our economy," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told a press conference.

"The temporary foreign worker program was intended to fill acute labor shortages on a temporary basis only, not to displace Canadian workers."

Under the program, businesses were allowed to hire foreigners to fill vacant jobs until they could train Canadians to take over.

But changes introduced last year aimed at streamlining the program -- 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 of relatively high unemployment -- with 1.4 million Canadians 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 apologized.

But the controversy grew as more people in other industries came forward with fresh allegations, including pilots, miners and fast-food servers.

The new changes to the program include hiking fees charged to employers to apply to hire foreigners; no longer allowing foreigners to be paid 5-15 percent less than Canadians; and making English and French the only languages that can be identified as a job requirement.

The government is also suspending "accelerated labor market opinions," a part of the earlier reforms that had shortened the time in which employers had to demonstrate that no Canadian workers were available to do the job.

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse