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Temporary foreign worker program amended again

(Canadian OH&S News)


(Canadian OH&S News)

The federal government has made amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR), changes that impose stricter conditions on Canadian employers who use the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). It was the second time in 2013 that the government had instigated reforms regarding temporary foreign workers.

“These changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program demonstrate the government of Canada’s ongoing commitment to protect vulnerable foreign workers from the risk of abuse and exploitation,” said Eric Morrissette, a media relations spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

Announced on Dec. 28 and put into effect on Dec. 31, the new changes grant authority to ESDC to conduct inspections of employers of foreign workers, to make sure that they are complying with IRPR conditions; such inspections may include onsite visits without warrants and consensual interviews with employees.

“Inspections can now be conducted from the first day of employment of the temporary foreign worker,” Morrissette explained, “rather than relying on an employer to request a new LMO [labour market opinion] before the federal government can verify the employer’s compliance with the conditions of a previous LMO.” ESDC issues LMOs to companies that apply for the TFWP; an LMO document evaluates the effect that a temporary foreign worker may have on Canada’s labour market.

ESDC now reserves the right to suspend or revoke LMOs and reject LMO applications. “The federal government will also issue Ministerial Instructions that set out the considerations under which to suspend or revoke LMOs or refuse to process LMO applications, to revoke work permits or suspend processing of work permits,” said Morrissette. “For example, if new information becomes available indicating the employer provided false or misleading information on the LMO application, the federal government may suspend or revoke the LMO and revoke the work permit.”

The amendments also require employers to retain all documents related to compliance with IRPR conditions for six years, starting from the first day of a foreign worker’s employment, said information from ESDC. Employers must make reasonable efforts to hire or train Canadian citizens or permanent residents and to keep their workplaces free of abuse. Additionally, as a strike against physical and sexual exploitation, ESDC cannot provide LMOs to escort services or to companies who offer stripteases or erotic massages.

Employers can be placed on public blacklist

Employers found to be non-compliant with IRPR standards can now lose their eligibility to hire foreign workers for two years and be placed on a public blacklist, while their previously issued LMOs can be revoked. But employers will have the opportunity to take corrective actions before such orders are made. In addition, a revised LMO application has been introduced, with altered questions and added attestations, the ESDC information said.

Morrissette added that another goal of the changes is to make sure that Canadians remain the top priority when it comes to employment.

The amendments have resulted from an ongoing government review of the TFWP. Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney and Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley announced a first wave of changes on April 29. Among these changes, employers are now required to pay foreign workers at the prevailing wage and to have solid plans to transition to a Canadian workforce over time; the amendments also strengthened the government’s power to suspend and revoke work permits and increased work permit fees.

“The government will continue to review the outcomes of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and make any necessary adjustments,” said Morrissette.