Auditor General : 370,000 Temporary Foreign Workers And Other Immigration Problems


This bulletin examines the immigration section of the recent report presented to Ottawa by Canada's Auditor General, Sheila Fraser. It should provide you with significant background information on the immigration issue.

At the beginning of the Auditor General's report, the AG's office repeats much of what Canada's immigration industry tells Canadians. This demonstrates that it has not read the government's own immigration analyses which contradict what the federal government has been doing since 1990. An awareness of those analyses is essential to anyone who wants to evaluate current Citizenship and Immigration Canada programmes.

In our “Questions”, we point out recommendations the AG's office could have made to the government if the AG's office had known more about the immigration issue.

Excerpts from the Auditor-General's report are preceded by the letters “AG”. Our questions follow each excerpt.



1. AG: The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) requires the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to table a report on immigration in Parliament before 1 November each year. This annual report gives the number of newcomers who were admitted to Canada during the previous year and announces Canadas immigration plan and target levels for the following calendar year. These levels are set for permanent residents only. There is no limit established for temporary residents. (See 2.10)

QUESTIONS: Because the numbers which Mr. Kenney has announced for the coming year are very similar to those of the last few years, are Canadians to assume that he, his party and all the other parties in the House of Commons see nothing wrong with continuing to bring very large numbers of people to Canada? Stats Can figures published on November 6 show that Canada's unemployment rate has risen to 8.6%. If MP's want to show they are working in the interests of Canada, why has not a single one publicly expressed alarm about the effects of high immigration levels on Canada's unemployed? Undoubtedly, there are some MP's (as well as provincial or municipal politicians) who believe that the immigration tap should have been turned down significantly long ago. If party leaders and whips continue to intimidate their fellow MP's into saying and doing nothing while hundreds of thousands of Canadians suffer from unemployment, then isn't it clearly time for caucus rebellions? If Auditor General Sheila Fraser and her department can write very articulate commentaries on matters within the immigration department, then surely they can make articulate connections between other departments and Canada's immigration department. Why, among all of the Auditor General's sensible recommendations, has she not made the most sensible comment of all, one which would recommend to the federal government (and all other parties) that they immediately take steps to reduce competition for jobs by dramatically reducing Canada's regular immigration intake and establishing a cap on Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker intake?

2. AG: In the 200809 fiscal year, CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) had an annual budget of $1.32 billion, of which $434.7 million was for operating expenditures ; funding for grants and contributions accounted for the balance. The Department had about 3,600 employees (full-time equivalents), including about 260 posted overseas. Immigration services abroad are provided through 89 offices in Canadian missions (offices in foreign cities) where, in addition to Canadian employees, more than 1,260 locally engaged staff work. In 2008, about 247,000 immigration visas, as well as 1,261,000 temporary resident visas, and work and study permits were issued. (See 2.9)

QUESTIONS: Because the 4860 employees were not able to do the required checks on the 1.5 million people whom they processed last year, it is almost certain that significant immigration abuses (such as people smuggling and other fraud) went undetected. The Auditor General and our government have long known about this. They also have known that people from other countries who are hired to work in Canada's consulates and embassies have been susceptible to bribes and have participated in fraud. The work these people do has to be checked by Canadian supervisers. Rather than spend more money on more employees to do proper assessments, why has the Auditor General not called a spade a spade and said that this is one more reason why Canada's intake should be reduced?

3. AG: In 2008, Canada admitted about 250,000 people as permanent residents, including about 150,000 individuals and their immediate family members selected on the basis of attributes that would enable them to succeed in a dynamic labour market. In addition, Canada allowed almost 370,000 temporary foreign workers in 2008 to fill a short-term need for labour. (See “Main Points”.)

QUESTIONS: We have frequently noted that the high number of regular immigrants has never been justified. Now, the number of Temporary Foreign Workers seems to have exploded, also without justification. At this time when so many Canadians are looking for jobs, is there anyone in Ottawa (particularly our Auditor-General) who can explain why Canada allowed 370,000 Temporary Foreign Workers to work here? Among the many insightful comments the Auditor General's department makes, why has it not included one that advised the government to investigate why the demand for TFW's has exploded and what effects this has had on Canadians?

4. AG: …between 2004 and 2009, increased economic activity in a number of provinces and lengthy delays in processing Federal Skilled Worker applications resulted in an increase of almost 471 percent in the minimum target levels for the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) category. During the same period, minimum target levels for the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) category dropped 31 percent. ( See 2.25)

QUESTION: Although the provinces have a constitutional right to be involved in immigration, why is Ottawa increasingly delegating its final say to the provinces? Mr. Kenney tells us that the provinces know their needs better than Ottawa does. This sounds more like a surrender to employers and people smugglers who have obviously seen an alternate way to import people. It does not sound like a statement of strength. Mr. Kenney seems to be standing by as many provinces allow companies within their boundaries to import workers. In return for workers remaining with those companies for a length of time, companies and some provinces want these temporary workers to be given immigrant status. In other words, they are saying that a Temporary Foreign Worker's time as a TFW should count toward immigrant status. Let's slow down and think this through. Why does Canada have a TFW programme at all? Supposedly, it is because Canada has temporary needs in certain sectors of its economy. Since our economy has cycles, it is assumed that those needs will end and that there will be Canadians who will need the jobs that the TFW's are now doing. In other words, the “T” in “TFW” does not mean “transitional” to immigrant status. It means “short term”. If employers and provinces are going to lobby for transitional status for TFW's, Parliament has to point out the insidiousness of this issue. If TFW's get immigrant status, but then leave their “temporary” jobs for other employment, is Canada going to need a permanent open door for TFW's? Remember that many of these temporary workers are unskilled and would probably not meet regular immigration requirements. What will be the effect of bringing in unskilled to compete with our own unskilled? If Canada is to submit to such lobbying from all provinces and territories, will it be possible to have one unifying immigration policy for the country?

5. AG: We found that evaluations of the programs we audited are either dated or have not been carried out. For example, CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) last evaluated the Federal Skilled Worker program in 1998, despite the significant changes made to this program…. Furthermore, CIC has never evaluated the Provincial Nominee and the Live-in Caregiver programs. (See 2.36) Consequently, not only are CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) and HRSDC (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada) unable to determine the extent to which these programs are meeting their objectives and achieving their expected outcomes, they are missing valuable information that could be used when making changes to programs or designing new programs. (See 2.38)

QUESTION: Have federal governments of the past 10 years done almost no evaluations of Canada's immigrant programmes because they have been intimidated by our immigration industry to keep these programmes in place? Have successive federal governments postponed evaluations of their programmes because they have been afraid to uncover the messy situations they know they will find?

6. AG: Since our last audit, the number of applicants (for Canada's (Federal Skilled Worker programme who are) awaiting a decision has almost doubled. At 31 December 1999, about 330,000 people (skilled workers and their families) were waiting to have their applications processed; the average waiting time was around 25 months. At 31 December 2008, more than 620,000 people in this category were waiting and the average processing time was 63 months. (2.42)

QUESTION: For a number of years, Canada's Federal Skilled Worker programme worked in the following way : workers applied to come here. If they met required standards, Canada had to take them—whether Canada needed these people or not. Why was Canada's system set up in such a foolish way? Although our current government has tried to correct this situation by now saying that it “may” rather than “shall” issue a visa to these applicants so they can come to Canada, what are all our political parties going to do to ensure that this system changes permanently and that the interests of Canadians are served first? It should be clear to all political parties that the number of applicants to the Temporary Foreign Worker programme and the Federal Skilled Worker programme has ballooned out of control and that Canada cannot absorb all these workers and should not take them. The announcement that Canada has reduced the number of occupations in which it needs workers from over 180 occupations in some provinces to 38 specific fields might seem as if our government is making progress on this issue. However, as we have demonstrated from interviewing experts in these 38 fields, it is false to claim that Canada needs workers even in all of those 38 fields. In fact, it is more accurate to say that Canada probably needs very few foreign workers at all and that most of the federal skilled worker contingent (half of Canada's total 250,000 current intake) is probably unnecessary. Why has our Auditor General not looked at these issues?

7. AG: Managing the large inventory of applications under the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) category is a major challenge. Measures taken by CIC in 2008 to limit the number of new Federal Skilled Worker applications were implemented without sufficient analysis. While it is too early to assess their full impact, the trends in the number of new applications received since the beginning of 2009 indicate they might not have the desired effect. CIC will have to monitor the situation closely and might need to consider other strategies to achieve this objective. Failure to do so could result in CIC being unable to process new applications within the 6 to 12 months it has forecast. In addition, the Departments ability to reduce the inventory of some 635,000 (Federal Skilled Worker) applicants on hand at the end of February 2008 could be significantly impaired. (2.141) As of 30 June 2009, the total inventory including both old and new applications amounted to 594,122 people…. ( 2.61)

QUESTION: A number of Canadians know that our immigration industry has threatened to take legal action against our federal government if the government does not recognize the right of previously-approved Federal Skilled Worker applicants (as well as other applicants) to come to Canada. In the skilled worker case, where the job prospects of many Canadians will probably be threatened, why has Canada not called the immigration industry's bluff on its threat? If ever a group needed to have contempt poured on its head by all Canadians, it is Canada's immigration industry. Also, why has our government not gone one step further? Why has it not told many people in this line-up that it has to serve the needs of Canadians first, that it has decided not to allow these people entry and that it will return the fees it has collected from applicants? Doing this would dramatically reduce Canada's backlog of Skilled Workers and Canada's announced intake of about 250,000 regular immigrants. Where are our Auditor General's recommendations on these issues?

8. AG: The issues we noted in the delivery of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program pose significant risks to the integrity of the program and could leave many foreign workers in a vulnerable position, particularly those who are physically or linguistically isolated from the general community or are unaware of their rights. (See 2.142)

QUESTIONS: With all due respect to the Auditor General's department and TFW's who have been exploited, whose vulnerability comes first: that of Canadians or that of non-Canadians? Like a number of politicians and a number of Canada's unions, the Auditor General seems to be expressing more concern for the plight of non-Canadians. In this as well as in other sections of Ms. Fraser's report, why does her department not make the obvious overarching point that immigration should serve Canada, not the opposite?

9. AG: In particular, the fact that HRSDC (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada) and CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) have not defined their respective roles and responsibilities in assessing the genuineness of job offers could result in work permits being issued for employers or jobs that do not exist. (See 2.142)

QUESTION: The Canada Border Services Agency is aware of cases where “employers” are really people smugglers. Has our Auditor General's Department looked at this matter? As the Auditor General probably knows, the CBSA has received many complaints about people smuggling and dozens of other kinds of immigration fraud. However, the CBSA, like Citizenship and Immigration Canada, is understaffed and cannot perform “due diligence”. In fact, it is well-known that the CBSA does not even begin to investigate many complaints which truly deserve investigation. It is also true that the many people who act as exemplary citizens in reporting fraud, have become exasperated that nothing is done to apprehend those whom they report. If Canada's border police cannot do or are not doing their job, shouldn't the Auditor General be severely chastising the government?

10. AG: There is also no systematic follow-up by either CIC or HRSDC to ensure that in their previous and current employment of temporary foreign workers, employers have complied with the terms and conditions (such as wages and accommodations) under which the work permits were issued. Finally, HRSDCs practices in issuing labour market opinions (approvals of applications) do not ensure the quality and consistency of decisions. (See 2.142)

QUESTIONS: It has long been suspected that some, possibly many, employers are using the TFW programme to pay workers as little as possible and to have them live in accommodation that Canadians would not tolerate. In other words, is the importing of TFW's further undermining the efforts of Canadians to get the wages required to live at a respectable standard? Labour shortages are usually accompanied by wage increases, yet Canadians have witnessed a stagnation in real wages since 1980. Is it probable that a labour surplus since 1980, particularly since 1990 when unnecessary high immigration levels were introduced, has contributed significantly to wage stagnation? Is the very high number of Temporary Foreign Worker applications a sign that many questionable employers sense that a door has been opened wide for cheap foreign labour and employer non-compliance with labour standards? On such an important issue, where are the Auditor General's recommendations?

11. AG: The total number of applications received in missions (offices in cities) overseas for the Live-in Caregiver program went from 6,178 in 2002 to 20,799 in 2008, an increase of more than 236 percent. Given such growth and the inherent risks in this program, it is difficult to understand why it has never been formally evaluated by CIC since 1992, when it replaced the Foreign Domestic Movement Program. ( See 2.113) Furthermore, we noted that the pilot project for occupations requiring lower levels of formal training was launched with limited analysis of risks and without any formal goal, objectives, or basis on which to evaluate its success, nor has it been formally evaluated since then. It has been a pilot for seven years. Combined with live-in caregivers, temporary foreign workers under this pilot project now account for more than half of all temporary foreign workers in Canada. (See 2.114)

QUESTIONS: What does the phrase “pilot programme” mean to the federal government? Wouldn't most Canadians say that a programme that has been going on for seven years is far beyond a “pilot programme”? Have these programmes not been evaluated because of the pressure of Canada's immigration industry to profit from them and to prevent scrutiny? What effect is the importing of, for example, caregivers having on Canada's own potential and current care-givers? Are Canadians aware that a large percentage of the employers of caregivers earn over $100,000 per year?

12. AG: The federal government is contributing to the recognition of foreign credentials. In 2005, the federal government launched the Internationally Trained Workers Initiative, a comprehensive strategy for integrating Canadians and immigrants trained abroad into Canadas labour force. The Foreign Credential Recognition program (FCRP) was part of this initiative; this contribution program delivered by HRSDC provides funding to provinces, territories, and stakeholders such as regulatory bodies, educational institutions, and the private sector to promote the recognition of foreign credentials for targeted occupations. (See 2.132)The government also established a new organization within CIC, the Foreign Credentials Referral Office (FCRO), which began operating in May 2007. Its purpose is to provide internationally trained and educated individuals with access to integrated, authoritative information about the Canadian labour market and credential assessment, recognition, and licensing processes and to provide path-finding and referral services. (See 2.133)

QUESTIONS: The federal government likes to boast that it has spent about $125 million on these programmes. Would it not have made more sense for the federal government to have admitted that it never needed most of these people in the first place and to have paid their way back home? How many of these people are visible minorities who have been moved to the front of the employment line as a result of Employment Equity rules? As a result, how many Canadian professionals have been displaced? Why has our Auditor General not commented on all these very important issues?

The Auditor General's full report can be found at