Canada to clamp down on temporary foreign worker program

Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:43am EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA, April 29 (Reuters) - The Canadian government was set to announce tighter rules on Monday to prevent employers from using its temporary foreign worker program to squeeze Canadians out of jobs, acting after two high-profile cases tarnished the program's reputation.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Human Resources Minister Diane Finley have scheduled a news conference for Monday afternoon to announce reforms to the program, which the Conservative government was expected to present to Parliament in its budget implementation bill on Monday afternoon.

"While Canada is experiencing significant skills shortages in many sectors and regions, this government believes that Canadians must always have first crack at job opportunities when they become available," said Stephen Lecce, spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"The government is moving quickly and taking action to reform the temporary foreign worker program to ensure that Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs."

Despite 7 percent unemployment nationally, in some areas and in some professions there are labor shortages, and Canadian employers are allowed to bring in foreign workers if the employers can demonstrate that they cannot find Canadians to do the work.

The program was designed mainly to bring in cheap agricultural workers but it has expanded rapidly to fill shortages elsewhere, both high-skilled positions in the booming resource sector and low-skilled jobs such as servers at the country's ubiquitous Tim Hortons coffee shops.

The program exploded into the news this month with word that Canada's largest bank, Royal Bank of Canada, was using temporary foreign workers hired by U.S. outsourcing firm iGate , effectively to replace existing staff.

In an open letter, RBC Chief Executive Gord Nixon subsequently apologized for not being more sensitive to Canadian employees. But he also said the bank had complied with regulations, and iGate said its hiring practices were fully compliant with Canadian law.   Continued...