Saskatchewan’s ‘Utter Disaster’ : Lay Off Aboriginals And Push The Hiring Of Immigrants


The effect of immigration on the employment of Canadians became a bit
clearer this week. On the Tuesday, Sept 14 edition of CBC Radio's The Current, Economics Professor Eric Howe stated that 1 in 7 Aboriginal Canadians in Saskatchewan lost their jobs in 2009. Mr. Howe is a specialist in Aboriginal issues and teaches at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. He described the job loss as “an utter disaster” for Aboriginals. He said a number of factors had caused this to happen. One was that the Saskatchewan job market slowed in 2009. Another was that the Saskatchewan provincial government was at that time “pushing the hiring of immigrants at the cost of hiring people already here”.

The fact that 1 in 7 aboriginal residents of Saskatchewan lost their jobs is very significant. According to the Government of Saskatchewan's web site, Saskatchewan's population is now just over 1 million. In 2001, people of aboriginal descent comprised 13.6% of the province's population. Aboriginals are a rapidly growing group in Saskatchewan and are projected to comprise 32.5% of that province's population in 2045. It is probably safe to say that they comprise close to 18% of Saskatchewan's population today. Mr. Howe did not provide raw numbers for the job losses, but they were probably not low.

In response, Rob Norris, Saskatchewan's Minister of Immigration (as well as of Advanced Education and Employment) has stated that “immigration to Saskatchewan is driven by employer demand for workers already trained for a particular skill”. He also said that the province does not “push” employers to hire immigrants, but that it helps employers to find workers. Furthermore, he has declared that the success of Saskatchewan's future is linked to Aboriginals. The government, he says, is doing what it can to help Aboriginals and its Metis population to find opportunities in education and in employment.

The key issue that Mr. Norris should be dealing with is whether the
employers' demands are legitimate and whether the provincial government has unintentionally helped some employers to act against the employment interests of its own citizens.

Regarding the conflict between the statements of Mr. Howe and Mr. Norris : Professor Howe has spent a large part of his long teaching career specializing in aboriginal issues. His experience lends a considerable amount of weight to his statements. Saskatchewan Immigration Minister Rob Norris does not have the same amount of experience with the issue. “Hire An Immigrant” initiatives have been well promoted by Canada's immigration industry during the recent recession. Few, if any, politicians at any level have expressed disapproval about the corrupt motives and obvious dangers of these immigration industry initiatives.

According to Statistics Canada, Canada allowed over 282,000 Temporary
Foreign Workers to work here in 2009. That number has doubled since 2005. In 9 of 10 provinces, the number of Temporary Foreign Workers has increased since 2005. In 2009, Ontario took 94,762, B.C. took 69, 038, Alberta took 65,038 , Quebec took 30,552 and Saskatchewan took 5971. Several provinces have experienced dramatic increases. Alberta took 4 times as many TFW's in 2009 as it did in 2005. B.C.'s numbers have more than doubled since 2005.

Here are the questions Mr. Norris, the government of Saskatchewan, and all provincial governments (particularly the provinces with such high numbers) have to answer:

(1) Undoubtedly, “utter disasters” have occurred in other parts of Canada, particularly in provinces like Ontario, B.C., and Alberta which have absorbed the majority of Canada's 5 million immigrants since 1990. Why have academics like Professor Howe (as well as governments) not investigated and corrected the “utter disasters” ? Regarding academics, do we have examples here similar to those in Australia where most of the research funds available are for research that portrays immigration in a favourable light?

(2) Since most of the 282,000 Temporary Foreign Workers who enter Canada are requested by employers, how closely have Saskatchewan and other provinces monitored employer applications for Temporary Foreign Workers? For example, the jobs that employers are filling are supposed to be advertised in Canada. Only if employers cannot find Canadians for those jobs are they allowed to bring in foreign workers. Mr. Norris says that employers were looking for workers with particular skills. So, what were the “skills” that Saskatchewan's 5971 TFW's had? Were they food service skills such as those used by workers at Tim Horton's, McDonald's, Wendy's, and the like? If so, were Saskatchewan Aboriginals and mainstream Saskatchewan residents just as “qualified” for those jobs, particularly if they had just lost their own jobs? The governments of all other provinces have to answer the same questions.

(3) The 282,000 Temporary Foreign Workers that worked in Canada in 2009 is an enormous number. It is very hard to believe that Canada needed that large a number. This is especially true for the last 2 years when Canada was in the most severe of the three economic downturns it has experienced since 1990. The question is probably not “Have employers abused the programme?”, but “How many have abused the programme and to what extent?” For example, some people have pretended that they are employers, advertised “jobs” that do not exist and, in effect, used the TFW programme as an alternate immigration programme. To what extent has this occurred with TFW's?

(4) Some Canadians like to say that Canada needs Temporary Foreign Workers because Canada does not have enough people to do agricultural work. However, Canada already has a programme (Seasonal Agricultural Worker Programme) to take care of agricultural worker shortages. Regarding actual numbers of foreign agricultural workers : in a June commentary on the SAWP programme, the United Food and Commercial Workers' Union stated that Canada allows about 15,000 foreign agricultural workers to be employed here each year. The key fact is that the number of foreigners who come here as agricultural workers is tiny, about 5% of all those who come here as TFW's. Compared to the number of all agricultural workers in Canada, the number of foreigners who work in Canadian agriculture is still quite small. According to one source, Canada has over 100,000 agriculture
workers, but about 80% of them are Canadians. They enter under the
Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP) and leave at the end of
their work term (usually several months).

A big question is this : If Canada is to bring in any Temporary Foreign Workers at all, why has it not used the cautionary devices in the SAWP programme as a model in order to avoid the “utter disasters” that have occurred in the past 2 years?

And of course, the biggest question of all is this : In a recession in
particular, but even in good times, why is Canada bringing in so many
permanent immigrants?


James Bissett, the former executive director of Canada's entire
immigration service, helped set up the Seasonal Agricultural Workers' Programme (SAWP). It originated in 1965 for Caribbean Commonwealth countries and was later expanded to include Mexico. It was called a “Premium” programme because farmers paid the transportation costs of workers from and back to their country of origin. They also paid the prevailing wage for Canadian workers. A consular official accompanied the workers to handle worker complaints. The lodging that farmers provided was inspected by officials from the Canadian government and the home countries of the workers. Farmers could recommend good workers be permitted to return the next year. As a testimony to the good will that existed between workers and employers, on days off, the farmers took workers to events in their communities. In the winter, the workers invited the farmers to attend festivals in the Caribbean. While the workers were in Canada, farmers provided the workers with spending money. However, a key part of the programme was that a large percentage of the workers' wages was held back. This was done to ensure that the workers left Canada. When the workers returned to their countries, their wages were deposited into their
bank accounts in their home countries.