Canada has always been a country characterized by immigration. While there has been a consistently steady stream of individuals coming from all over the world, what have changed are the avenues available to enter the country.
Increasingly immigrants are likely to have first worked in Canada under a temporary work permit. This is because the immigration system is becoming increasingly employer-driven, aimed first and foremost at alleviating both cyclical and chronic labour shortages.
Temporary foreign workers enter Canada through the country’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (the “TFWP”). As I have noted on several occasions, the TFWP has expanded exponentially over the last decade. Specifically, the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada has increased from approximately 60,000 to over 250,000 per year. The growth has been so significant that the number of temporary foreign workers has surpassed the number of economic permanent residents entering Canada per year.
At the same time, the rules and regulations governing the entry of temporary workers in Canada have tightened significantly. This has meant that employers are increasingly liable both for the process followed in hiring foreign workers and for the manner in which they are treated while in Canada.
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (“HRSDC”) has just announced new rules governing the recruitment of foreigners. This includes lengthened recruitment times, a requirement for employers to broaden their search for workers, as well as the imposition of fees associated with a request for a Labour Market Opinion.
In addition to the regulatory changes, employers are also increasingly under scrutiny with respect to the manner in which they treat foreign workers, both in their hiring and employment. This includes various factors such as wages, hours of work, as well as workplace health and safety. Not only are employers expected to promise to adhere to the conditions of employment agreed to at the time of the hiring of a foreigner, they will also be at risk of an audit by HRSDC and/or Immigration Canada.
The new rules and regulations should not be discouraging to employers hoping to hire foreigners. Rather, these changes are part of a natural evolution of a program which has grown by leaps and bounds. Canada will continue to facilitate the entry of thousands of temporary foreign workers, if for no other reason than the fact that there continues to be chronic shortages of skilled labour in various aspects of the country.
Given the changes, employers that implement a formal process for the recruitment, hiring, as well as the employment of temporary foreign workers will be in a good position to continue to hire foreigners. Investing in the process for the hiring of foreign workers will specifically help to ensure that employees are secured in a timely manner and that the relationship between an organization and both HRSDC and Immigration Canada remains positive and productive.