27

Canada’s foreign worker boom

Since 2006, Canada’s low-wage temporary workforce population has ballooned by 70 per cent


 
A disposable workforce

Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star

It was the worst imaginable way to jolt Canadians toward noticing that low-wage foreign workers are an increasingly important segment of the country’s labour force. Ten workers, nine from Peru and one from Nicaragua, recruited to fill jobs vaccinating chickens, were killed, and three others badly injured, when their van ran a stop sign and collided with a truck at a rural crossroads in southwestern Ontario. The truck driver, a Canadian, also died in the crash early this month. The accident thrust the reality of who works at the lowest tiers of farming and some other sectors briefly into the news. But even with that burst of attention, the swelling statistics on migrants remain little discussed. When Stephen Harper’s Conservatives won power in 2006, 255,440 foreign temporary workers lived in Canada. By 2010, their ranks had expanded to 432,682.

They are an increasingly diverse group. A changing mix of migrant occupations signals a shift in the way employers rely on foreigners to do jobs Canadians won’t. York University immigration expert Alan Simmons says the rapid growth has come outside traditional farm and domestic work, in industries like meat-packing, warehousing and hotels. Temporary workers now greatly outnumber newcomers accepted for good. From 2006 to 2010, the number of foreigners living in Canada as permanent residents on their way to citizenship increased only 12 per cent, from 251,642 to 280,681, during a five-year span when the foreign temporary-worker population ballooned by nearly 70 per cent.

The two groups enter Canada under starkly contrasting terms. Those admitted as permanent residents are joining family members who are already citizens, or have been selected under a federal points system that values education and a good grasp of English or French, or are refugees. Those allowed in temporarily are accepted only because their employers applied to the federal government to recruit abroad to fill vacancies they couldn’t interest Canadians in at the prevailing wage.

The fast growth of this temporary class fits with broader federal policy. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney have signalled they want to more closely match permanent immigrants, too, to immediate job openings. That could mean fewer with advanced degrees, more with in-demand practical skills. Some provinces have already taken on a bigger role in carefully picking immigrants to meet employer demands. Temporary workers have always needed a clear job offer before being allowed in. And Kenney firmed up regulations last year to make sure those offers are genuine. As well, he put a four-year limit on how long temporary workers can stay. Last fall, Kenney and Human Resources Minister Diane Finley met with business leaders, along with labour representatives, in Calgary to discuss making the policy even more “responsive to labour market needs,” although no further policy changes have so far been announced.

A minority of these temporary workers are given the chance to become permanent immigrants. Domestic workers—often live-in caregivers from the Philippines—typically come on short-term visas, but are allowed to apply to immigrate after two years here. Some high-skilled foreign workers can also hope to make the leap from temporary to permanent, but most are offered little or no chance to stay.

Among the provinces, only Manitoba has passed comprehensive legislation to protect foreign temporary workers. “We had identified a pattern that I think others across the country also saw,” says Ben Rempel, assistant deputy minister in the province’s Ministry of Labour and Immigration, “of frequent abuse of foreign temporary workers, most often by unregulated recruitment activity, sometimes by employers who didn’t honour the terms of contracts offered.” Manitoba’s 2009 law requires companies bringing in foreign workers to register with the province. Recruiters must also be licensed. Fines for violations of rules on, for instance, pay and working conditions can be high, up to $25,000 for an individual and $50,000 for a corporation.

Rempel says other provinces are now looking closely at Manitoba’s model. International experience is also well worth examining. Other rich countries have long struggled with how to treat large numbers of foreign workers who live in their midst for many years without qualifying for citizenship, including Turks in Germany and Latin Americans in the U.S. In Canada, the issue may only now be emerging on a large scale. Simmons says it poses two urgent policy questions: “Who’s monitoring the safety and well-being of these workers? Who’s looking at what rules should allow people who really invest in the building of this country to convert to permanent residents?” The answers Ottawa and the provinces arrive at could determine if more foreign workers represent a mutually advantageous economic solution, or a dawning social problem.


 

Canada’s foreign worker boom

  1. Stephen Harper, John Baird, Rob Nicholson and Vic Toews should be tarred and feathered, then banished from Canada!

    • Temporary workers are better for us than immigrants.

      I don’t see a problem with getting our crops picked by people willing to do it, who then go back to their homelands instead of enrolling their children in our schools, or taking from our healthcare system.  

      We get the labour we need, without having to subsidize a family who don’t pay enough in taxes to offset all the services they use.

  2. Astounding that new immigrants have to compete for jobs with temporary workers who ALL send there salaries OUT of Canada. Give your head a shake!

      • Are you being sarcastic?*  He really hates the commentinimos here abouts & in general, thinking (all of) us little better than feral pigeons in the park.  

        Build it and they will come, as it were.

        *Answer: Yes.

    • What do you mean?

  3. A first class wage suppression strategy. I remember when the foreign temporary
    workers in agricultural southern Ontario were Maritimers (me) and Quebecois.

    •  Exactly.

      “Those allowed in temporarily are accepted only because their employers
      applied to the federal government to recruit abroad to fill vacancies
      they couldn’t interest Canadians in at the prevailing wage.”

      The crucial bit is at the end —> at the prevailing wage.

  4. Ah yes, the Harper Government’s™ mantra of Jobs, Jobs, Jobs! now makes sense.  We boost our economy by exporting high paying jobs and importing low paying jobs.

    see Stephen Harper waves goodbye to Canadian jobs

    Face it – building a refinery or oil sands upgrader is complicated.  It takes brains. It takes investment. It involves risk.

    Building a pipeline, by comparison, is pretty simple.  Hey – let the Chinese figure out the tough stuff. They seem to be good at math. Another bonus is that pielines are so simple that even Vic Toews probably has a good idea of how they work. We can elevate stupidity to a whole new level.

    • You forgot that it takes skilled labor to build a refinery….something that is in short supply in Alberta….it also takes a long time due to the labor shortage and environmental regulations required for refineries in Canada….some in the industry say 10 years?

      Now as for your link….how is it Harper’s fault that the CAW wants over $34.00/hr. for unskilled workers and the Americans are willing for work for $16.00/hr.?  Should Canadian taxpayers fund the other 50%?  It wasn’t the skilled labor that were asked to take the 50% paycut and just so you know….those unskilled laborers make more than a registered nurse at the top of the payscale in Quebec makes $31.89/hr.

      • “how is it Harper’s fault that the CAW wants over $34.00/hr. for unskilled workers and the Americans are willing for work for $16.00/hr.?”

        Great answer!  – Tell that to the former employees of Electro Motive.

        Jason Kenney is now working on creating a new refugee class – “American Hillbilly” that will allow Canadian manufacturers to to import temporary workers into Canada to “level the playing field”.

        This announcement will come after the Government celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the war of 1812 – when we kicked the American’s butt – Go Canada Go!.

        This will also coincide also with an announcement that Canada will increase the CCA allowance from 30% to 100% for locomotives because locomotives for transport of product are an anachronism. 

        We need more pipelines! Go Northern Gateway Go!

      • Isn’t a registered nurse skilled labour?

        How has it come to be that the Americans are willing to work for $16/hr?  If they are willing to work for that, does it mean it actually will support/sustain themselves and or their dependent family members, should they have them?  

        What is the relationship between the increase in petroleum exports in the west and the collapse of manufacturing in the east?  Is there any relationship or is one unaffected by the other? 

        What is the affect of fostering one or two sectors of the economy upon the others?  

        What moral standing does an economic sector based upon resource extraction/exploitation have when it gets trumped by another ex/ex industry?

        Is it better medicine to address the causative factors or should we just indulge in panic and treat only the accidents?  

        What is the difference between condemning the defense of economic interests by intra-ethnic & multi-ethnic associations as compared to similar defensive actions mounted by obviously ethnocentric aggregations?   Or: why do you react with reflexive distaste to all instances of the presence of unions in questions economic?

  5. Are these employers even trying to hire Canadians?  Where is the evidence of fruitless efforts?

    • A relative with interest in a manufacturing plant in Alberta, tired of getting only the whey of the local population, despite an attractive wage package, has resorted to creaming the Philippines & with some success.   Given the deep pockets he is competing against, there is very little he can do but make recourse to the stop gap of temporary workers.  The systemic irregularities he struggles against did not arise overnight, nor will they go away w/o extensive re-engineering of society.

      I have advised him not to hold his breath.  

      • I find it hard to believe that it’s easier to hire people from the Philippines than locals or workers from neighbouring provinces. Are slave wages involved? 

        • I didn’t say it was easier.  The extra effort, though, proved  worth it.  And, no, slave wages were not involved, this is Canada.  He runs a reputable company with excellent benefits.  

          Are slave wages involved, sheesh!

          • Clearly, I don’t have all the facts. I’m just trying to understand this situation.

          • Fair enough.  The suggestion that there was slave wages involved was just a little irksome.  

  6. This is so stupid. I live next door to a series of migrant farms in the Holland Marsh. I see the migrant workers everyday coming back from town riding their bikes stacked with groceries. I am currently collecting EI and unemployed. I would do anything for a job on these farms. All the farm jobs go to migrant workers.

    How stupid is that?

    • I suggest applying for a job at the farms, then tell the media about what happens. This is fascinating.

    • I agree with you 100%. I am a true white Canadian citizen and have been unemployed for two years. Regardless of my management/marketing degree I am unable to find work. I am going to start fighting for my rights by exposing these large corporations on the news and everywhere I see fit. I believe my generation will be spending our entire lives fighting for jobs that Harper has clearly gave away to everyone but true Canadians. I not only see myself as a minority in Canada, I am in poverty collecting social assistance to pay my student loans because I do not qualify for unemployment insurance. Since am a single individual living at home with my parents because I cannot support myself in order to start life, I receive $453.00 a month to live on. I have about five other close friends that are in the same position as me. Is anyone ready to take a stand, advertise and expose the government/corporations on the news globally? I’m ready for it!

  7. Am from East Africa but i need an individual or a company that can hire me as a domestic worker, care giver,cleaner farm and baby sitting. i can do any of these jobs and go beyond your expectations

  8. Close the doors allready. Staighten out this country first and then open the doors when every Canadian is working!! Fix what is broken first!!!

  9. I want to write about how Canadian companies should be ashamed and should have their corporate tax breaks taken away for not hiring Canadians. This is a stain on our economy thus we can’t move forward nor out of the depression, (Sorry folks double dip is a thing I get at Dairy Cream) Yes, Harper supposedly made changes but this is not good enough he has to close the loopholes that most companies are using to hire foreigners. I have applied to many jobs and have been told, “You don’t look like.” Or “It is only related.” And then these companies hire foreigners who can’t speak a word of English or say their name and somehow they have experience? I believe that the
    corporate tax breaks should be taken away and any other benefit because those
    temporary workers will all of a sudden be permanent and thus blocking Canadians
    with skills. To say that no skilled Canadians is like me saying there is a giant who holds the earth up named Hercules. A myth. Canadian companies have gotten too lazy that
    they use any cop out why they can not to pay proper wages and yet make their
    big administration salaries of $5million or so.
    How many houses can these people live in at once? With their 9 houses
    and 10 cars? How many cars can you drive at once? What is the point of funding somebody from
    India who contributes to his family in India or China instead of Canada where
    money can flow through the economy thus producing a hot economy like in world
    war 2 when we began to produce made in Canada arms.. Canada has to stop letting money out and fine
    people who take out our currency to be used in other countries thus making
    their country rich. Thus drives up the
    taxes in Canada making Canada expensive to live and work in.

    An example is I have a Business Management diploma from
    community college, a Real Estate Condo Management certificate from UBC, 13
    years security at major office and condo buildings across Canada and writing up
    property management guides etc. I also manage my parents 4 condo properties in
    BC, including voting etc. and a Land Agent certificate from Olds College in
    Alberta. Yet some how I have related experience and that is not good enough?
    HELLO WHAT ARE EMPLOYERS LOOKING FOR EXPERIENCE, EXPERIENCE, EXPERIENCE.
    Weather I cut a piece of wood with a hand saw or a power saw the job at the end
    of the day gets done the wood is cut. Weather I say 2+2=4 or 2X2=4 it don’t
    matter the answer is going to be the same. 2+2 and 2X2 is related. All this
    education and I can’t land a job in property management of any sort. Yet some
    person who walks off the boat from China or India can’t speak a word of English
    and yet they are property managers. Newspapers in BC always say must speak
    Punjabi or Hindu or Cantonese or Mandarin. Hello this is Canada, I speak
    English.

    No wonder us skilled Canadians are getting short changed by our own people.

    And we hire people who are they terrorists who are killing Canadian troops and bombing them the next thing they want is Landed Immigrant or Citizenship in Canada, and they get a job.

    Andrew Kelly

    • We need to join online forces and start getting people on board. I have a management.marketing degree and cannot even get a minimum wage job. Companies all around me are hiring foreign workers. Not only are they hiring them they are actually purchasing houses from them. The government are paying corporations large wage subsidies so there is no reason to hire a Canadian and pay they a decent wage. I am left collecting social assistance to pay the interest payments on my students loans. Exposing these companies is going to be my new found hobby for the rest of my life. I may even run for council by promoting what I believe in. We need to start creating messages and forums in every media section possible

  10. I am a true white Canadian citizen and have been unemployed for two years. Regardless of my management/marketing degree I am unable to find work. I am going to start fighting for my rights by exposing these large corporations on the news and everywhere I see fit. I believe my generation will be spending our entire lives fighting for jobs that Harper has clearly gave away to everyone but true Canadians. I not only see myself as a minority in Canada, I am in poverty collecting social assistance to pay my student loans because I do not qualify for unemployment insurance. Since am a single individual living at home with my parents because I cannot support myself in order to start life, I receive $453.00 a month to live on. I have about five other close friends that are in the same position as me. Is anyone ready to take a stand, advertise and expose the government/corporations on the news globally? I’m ready for it!

Sign in to comment.