The Federal Government late last week signalled in no uncertain terms its determination to forge ahead with fundamental reforms to the immigration system.
The government has over the last few years been on something of a mission to reform a system that has traditionally focused primarily on permanent residency, including the “family class”, into one increasingly designed to facilitate the entry of workers to meet specific labour market shortages. The changes have been aimed at addressing what both statistics and employers have been saying for some time: Canada is not producing enough skilled workers to service rapidly expanding industries, such as the oil and gas sectors.
As I have discussed in previous postings, last April fundamental changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (the “TFWP”) came into effect. These changes spelled out strict rules for employers to ensure their compliance with immigration rules. Employers that stray from the rules through, for example, not adhering to pre-approved wages or working conditions, can find themselves subject to various sanctions, such as heavy fines or, worse, a ban against hiring foreign workers.
The resulting modifications to immigration laws, such as these most recent changes to the TFWP, seem to be having their intended effect as the number of temporary foreign workers has in recent years climbed to the point where they now exceed the number of permanent residents accepted each year.
With great power comes great responsibility
The Federal Government’s announcement of last week appears to signal a continuing determination that employers will play an increasingly central role in deciding who can immigrate to Canada.
The changes are nothing less than revolutionary. All indications are that at least some of the notoriously creaky wheels of the immigration process will be deliberately lubricated to facilitate an expedited entry of workers to satisfy employer needs for skilled workers. Specifically, the government will ensure that employers get their choice of workers quicker, a kind of “just in time” system designed to speed up the entry of workers to support commercial operations.
Assuming the proposed changes come to fruition, it is clear that, while employers will play a greater role in the immigration system to secure desired employees, employers will have equally enhanced responsibilities to adhere to the increasingly complex regulatory environment surrounding immigration. This means that employers would be wise to increasingly integrate immigration into overall Human Resources decision making, policy design, as well as overall execution. Immigration will eventually cease to be a “one-off” issue but rather be part of comprehensive operational planning and ongoing compliance. Revolutionary? Perhaps not, but a significant change nonetheless.