Temporary foreign worker program in Canada

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The Temporary foreign worker program or TFWP is a program of the Government of Canada to allow employers in Canada to hire foreign nationals.[1] When the program started in 1973, most of the workers brought in were high-skill workers such as specialist doctors.[2] In 2002 a "low-skilled workers" category was added; this category now makes up most of the temporary foreign workforce.[2][3] In 2006, the program was expanded and fast-tracking introduced for some locations.[2] It was revised again in 2013, raising wages, charging employer fees, and removing the accelerated applications.[4]

The total number of TFW more than doubled between 1993 and 2013, to 338,189 workers.[2] Between 2006 and 2014, more than 500,000 workers (referred to under the program as Temporary Foreign Workers or TFWs) were brought into Canada under the program.[5] In 2013 there were 338,000 foreign workers in Canada.[6]

Some temporary foreign workers have said they can be treated worse than Canadian co-workers, because of the way in which the Canadian residence of a temporary foreign worker is tied to an employer.[7] Apart from their temporary status, temporary foreign workers have the same employment rights as Canadian workers, and can phone a free 1-800 number for help.[8] It is against Canadian federal rules to bring in temporary foreign workers if Canadian workers are available.



In April 2013 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) started reporting on issues surrounding the hiring of temporary foreign workers.

Information Technology (IT) workers

On April 6, 2013, CBC News reported that Canadian RBC Information technology (IT) workers were losing their jobs to replacement foreign workers. The foreign workers were brought from India by outsourcing firm iGATE, and the Royal Bank of Canada employees trained their replacements before they themselves were laid off, causing their appeal to the media.[9][10]

Mine workers

The CBC also reported that a Chinese company which owns a mine in British Columbia was attempting to import workers from China.[11] According to the Huffington Post one of the requirements of the job was the ability to speak Mandarin Chinese.[12]

Oil-field workers

In October 2013 the Huffington Post reported that the Alberta Federation of Labour said foreign workers were displacing Canadian workers in Fort McMurray. The report claimed that 270 Canadian workers employed by a Toronto-based firm were to be replaced by foreign workers employed by an Italian firm[13]

Farm-help workers

On October 23, 2013 Global News reported that a company in Saskatoon was helping farmers recruit temporary foreign workers to help farmers. It was reported that the Canadian Federation of Agriculture estimates the Canada is in need of 30,000 seasonal and longer-term farm workers. Employment Canada acknowledged that there was a shortage of agricultural workers.[14]

Political reaction

The move resulted in a strong negative reaction from the public and drew the attention of the office of the minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Human Resources Minister Diane Finley issued a statement saying the situation is unacceptable if it is true.[15][16] The bank had responded to the controversy by issuing a statement denying the charges and offering clarification of the situation.[17] A reported 45 employees lost their jobs, nevertheless RBC had indicated that they intended to expand this practice in the coming year.[18]

In May 2013, this program was the focus of a debate between the Canadian government and the opposition NDP party. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was questioned at the House of Commons about the program. The CBC reported that some employers were said to be abusing the TFWP by bringing in temporary foreign workers to areas where qualified local workers were collecting Employment Insurance benefits.[19] During Question Period Harper said that the government had addressed this issue before 2013, and that changes had been made to both the EI Program and the TFWP in order to address these issues. He stated that the NDP did not cooperate at the time in the introduction of the changes and that NDP MPs requested more foreign workers in their own ridings.[20] The CBC found In 2013 that in Saskatchewan, 65 per cent of recent newly created jobs were held by temporary foreign workers,[21] and in Nova Scotia over one thousand employers had requested foreign workers.[22]


Restaurant workers

In April 2014, other issues with the program came under scrutiny by the CBC relating to the procurement of temporary foreign unskilled labour by McDonalds Canada.[23]

2014 political reaction

In January 2014, Employment Minister Jason Kenney pledged a second round of reforms citing employee frustration.[5]

On April 24, 2014, Jason Kenney , Minister of Employment, announced that the FTWP had been suspended for the Food services industry.[24] It has now been renewed.

2014 Microsoft gets green light for foreign workers

In December of 2014 the CBC reported that Microsoft Canada obtained an exemption from the Canadian federal government that will allow the company to bring in an unspecified number of temporary foreign workers to British Columbia. The trainee foreign workers will be hired without requiring Microsoft to look for Canadian workers who could fill the positions. [25]

See also


  1. "Fact Sheet — Temporary Foreign Worker Program". Government of Canada. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/rise-in-foreign-temp-workers-questioned-by-labour-groups-1.1361027
  3. http://www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/jobs/foreign_workers/reform/index.shtml
  4. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/foreign-worker-program-gets-new-rules-higher-fees-1.1340184
  5. 5.0 5.1 Wingrove, Josh (27 January 2014). "Ottawa to revise foreign-worker rules as employers complain of delays". The Globe and Mail. 
  6. http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/04/24/a_flood_of_foreign_workers_drives_up_western_unemployment_tim_harper.html
  7. http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/TV+Shows/The+National/Go+Public/ID/2450187011/
  8. http://www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/jobs/foreign_workers/reform/info_fw.shtml
  9. "RBC replaces Canadian staff with foreign workers". British Columbia: CBC News. 6 April 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-09. 
  10. "RBC temporary workers: Ottawa concerned about move". Financial Post. 7 April 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-09. 
  11. B.C. mine's temporary foreign workers case in Federal Court - Business - CBC News. Cbc.ca (2013-04-09). Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  12. Temporary Foreign Worker Program May Be Distorting Labour Market Needs: Study. Huffingtonpost.ca. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  13. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/10/temporary-foreign-workers-fort-mcmurray_n_4081204.html
  14. http://globalnews.ca/news/920783/saskatoon-company-helping-farmers-hire-temporary-foreign-workers/
  15. "Statement from the Honourable Diane Finley". Newswire. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. 7 April 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-09. 
  16. Mehta, Diana (7 April 2013). "RBC Foreign Workers Report Sparks Discontent, Company Will Discuss Hiring Practices With Government". The Canadian Press. Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-04-09. 
  17. "rbc.com - RBC - Media Newsroom". RBC. 2011-10-17. Retrieved 2013-04-09. 
  18. Sophie Cousineau (2013-04-08). "Ottawa to probe RBC job outsourcing". Toronto: The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2013-04-09. 
  19. Temporary foreign workers hired in areas with EI claimants - Politics - CBC News. Cbc.ca (2013-05-07). Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  20. Harper says foreign worker program is being fixed - Business - CBC News. Cbc.ca (2013-05-07). Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  21. Labour congress warns of foreign worker 'exploitation' - Saskatoon - CBC News. Cbc.ca (2013-05-11). Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  22. 1,029 Nova Scotia employers request foreign workers - Nova Scotia - CBC News. Cbc.ca (2013-05-10). Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  23. McDonald's foreign worker practices face growing investigation - CBC News. Cbc.ca (2014-04-14). Retrieved on 2014-04-14.
  24. http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/businesses-will-be-hurt-by-temporary-foreign-worker-restaurant-ban-industry-1.1792755
  25. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/foreign-workers-microsoft-gets-green-light-from-ottawa-for-foreign-trainees-1.2870289

External links