The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is a very controversial topic. Here are some of the issues that have arisen over the years because of it.

Employee abuse

“There are lots of examples of [employee abuse], whether it be withholding wages [or] inappropriate living and working conditions,” says migrant counsellor Erin Burk from New Canadians Centre. “There have been injuries and deaths.”

Burk says that if TFWs are being abused, they often remain silent as they worry that they’ll be sent home if they speak up.

Here are a few examples of stories of TFWs being abused by their employers.

CBC: Sex abuse case highlights vulnerability of workers on visas

Huffington Post Canada: Foreign Worker Reports Death Threats, Coercion

CBC: Tim Hortons boss accused of cheating Filipino workers for OT 

Toronto Star: Migrant farm worker launches discrimination complaint against WSIB

Argument that TFWs drive down wages and take jobs away from Canadians

According to a media representative from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), “The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is intended as a last and limited resort when employers are facing short-term skills and labour shortages.”

Unfortunately, some employers, through loopholes or illegal acts, have hired foreign employees when Canadians were available in order to give them lower wages.

Former MP Jinny Sims talking about the problems with the TFWP. 

CTV: “Thousands of TFWs were being underpaid and used as pawns to drive down wages for all Albertans,” McGowan said.

To alleviate these issues and concerns, the Canadian government has pledged to increase inspection of employers. Additionally, they’ve created new rules and limits, such as capping the amount of low-wage foreign workers that employers can hire to 10% and increasing employers’ application fees from $275 to $1000 per worker request.

Despite the new rules, many people are still against the TFWP and say that it is not needed.

Screen shot 2016-08-01 at 2.16.46 PM
Canadians Against the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is a Facebook page with 27,000 followers. Click the image to view the page.

Argument that it’s unfair to the workers because the program doesn’t help them to immigrate

On April 1, 2011, the Canadian government created the four in and four out rule, which states that TFWs must leave Canada after four years of employment, unless they have been accepted as permanent residents. Because of this rule, on April 1, 2015, tens of thousands of TFWs—the exact number was not released—were forced to leave the country.

Migrant counsellor Burk says that this isn’t fair to the workers and that the government needs to do more to help them stay.

“There’s no pathway to permanent residency through this program, which is a big issue,” she says. “They play such an important role in not just our economy, but for our society, you know, raising our children and that kind of thing.”

Groups such as the Canadian Labour Congress and Justica for Migrant Workers agree with Burk. They say that if foreign workers can come to Canada to work and contribute to the economy and community, then they deserve to become permanent residents if that is what they want.

new-piktochart (11)