Time to Smell Real Temporary Foreign Worker Message

Time to Smell Real Temporary Foreign Worker Message

The announcement that up to 2000 Chinese Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW’s) will be allowed to work in four Chinese-owned B.C. coal mines has sparked an uproar throughout British Columbia. It has also raised many questions about Canada’s entire Temporary Foreign Worker programme.

The Chinese companies are working with Dehua Mining Co. Ltd, a British Columbia company founded by China-born Vancouver businessman Naishun Liu.

Provincial Gov’t Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Pat Bell, has said the B.C. government is working with Ottawa and the mining, construction and technology sectors to meet “urgent” labour and skills shortages. According to provincial officials, Chinese Temporary foreign workers will be allowed to work here because no Canadians have the skills necessary for the jobs. Mr. Bell has yet to state exactly what unique skills the Chinese miners possess.

According to the B.C. Federation of Labour, the B.C. gov’t claims are false. Other critics say that if no such Canadian miners are available, suitable Canadians should be trained to do the work and the coal should be left in the ground until then.

The entire Chinese deal has raised many suspicions. For example, the B.C. gov’t must have known about the Temporary Foreign Worker issue when it announced this Chinese investment in November 2011. Why did it cover up the TFW part of the deal? Futhermore,, does the Chinese government have a stake in the $1.4 billion in Chinese funding for two of the coal projects?

In other words, the Mainland Chinese have already tested the weakness of Canadian governments in protecting Canada’s resources : the Mainland Chinese own four coal mines where the Mainland Chinese TFW’s will work. Is this deal another Mainland Chinese gov’t test, this time of Canada’s will to protect Canadian workers? As most Canadians know, Ottawa has been deliberating about whether or not to allow China’s state-owned oil company to buy Canadian energy giant Nexen. In our view, Canada should be protecting both its resources and its people. Canada does not have to provide reasons for doing this. Case closed !!!

In order for 300,000 Temporary Foreign Workers to qualify to work in Canada in 2011, Canada’s Department of Human Resources and Skills Development (HRSD) required employers to demonstrate that they had looked for Canadians to do the work. (Citizenship and Immigration Canada works jointly with HRSD on the TFW issue.) After employers have stated they have been unsuccessful, they can apply to Canada’s HRSD for what is called a positive Labour Market Opinion (LMO). This gives the employer permission to import one or many foreign workers. However, Ottawa has recently weakened its power to monitor by permitting some applications to be accelerated.

Inadequate monitoring has long been the big problem with the TFW programme and Canada’s regular immigration programme. Ottawa knows that there is much abuse of both programmes. One example of fraud in the TFW programme is that some people are pretending to be “employers” and are bringing people here to work at jobs that do not exist. Yet Ottawa does little to stop this or other abuse. The obvious solution is not to hire more monitors, but to cut the numbers dramatically so that adequate, real monitoring can occur.

Immigration Watch Canada has received information which sheds more light on the Temporary Foreign Worker saga.

Canadian employer Tim Horton’s has long exploited the fact that the doughnut chain was founded by legendary Toronto Maple Leafs’ defenceman Tim Horton. During the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, it played on Canadian heart-strings with dozens of TV ads showing black immigrants arriving in Canada on a snowy winter night.  The message was a subtle pro-immigration one : “What a wonderful country Canada is for taking us immigrants !!!”  A more truthful message would have been : “What a wonderful country Canada is for allowing Tim Horton’s franchises to displace unemployed Canadians with us low-wage Temporary Foreign Workers !!!”

In response to our Access to Information Requests, Canada’s HRSD has disclosed important information about Temporary Foreign Workers employed by Tim Horton’s.

According to HRSD, Tim Horton’s franchises all across Canada had received 3281 positive Labour Market Opinions in 2011. Potentially, that gave Tim Horton’s franchises the right to import a minimum of 3281 Temporary Foreign Workers. One HRSD official has stated that since one franchise employer may use one positive LMO to import many Temporary foreign Workers, it is possible that Tim Horton’s franchises were given the right to import 5000 or more Temporary Foreign Workers in 2011. And the 3281 figure is for only 2011 !!!. HRSD has not yet disclosed how many TFW’s Tim Horton’s franchises brought here in previous years or this year.

Since employers do not necessarily import all of the TFW’s they apply for, HRSD officials advised that we contact Canada’s Department of Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) to find out how many visas they had issued to TFW’s. When we did this, CIC gave us the following response : “Our system does not have comprehensive (fully reliable) data regarding the companies that hire and bring Temporary Foreign Workers into the country.”

This is quite an outrageous admission. Our question is this : If CIC is not keeping track of this visa information, who is?

Equally important questions are these : How many businesses like Tim Horton’s, which are not exactly vital to Canada’s economy, have become addicted to low-wage foreign labourers in order to stay in business? To assist employers of TFW’s, Ottawa announced earlier this year that it was allowing TFW employers to pay wages 15% below the average wage paid to Canadians in an occupation—although provincial minimum wage laws had to be observed.  Wages at Tim Horton’s are in the $8 to $9 dollar per hour range.

As most Canadians know, businesses like these have traditionally provided entry-level employment to students. However, as many Canadians have observed, most of the people employed at Tim Horton’s in Canada’s larger centres are mature foreigners who are probably trying to get a proverbial foot in Canada’s immigration door.  In order to be a net economic contributor to Canada, workers have to earn a wage much above that paid by Tim Horton’s.

At the very least, if poor Canadian citizens work at Tim Horton’s, they are less of an economic burden than when they are unemployed. However, what is the point of allowing employers like Tim Horton’s to import large numbers of foreigners who are very likely low-skilled (but also probably looking for immigrant status) when Ottawa demands that most of its immigrants in the Economic Class possess high-level skills so that they will not be a burden?

In addition, why is it allowing some TFW’s to bring their families to Canada if the TFW work is really “temporary”? Has Ottawa not realized that these TFW’s will probably give birth to children here, that these children will get Canadian citizenship, and that this will add to Canada’s immigration mess which is one of the worst in the world?

In response to another Access to Information Request for the names of the 20 employers who brought the most Temporary Foreign Workers to Canada in 2011, Immigration Watch Canada received the following information.  As Canadians will see, the information is related to the Tim Horton’s matter :

The first and the third-ranked in the list of the 20 employers (Wendy’s Restaurants in Calgary and McDonald’s in Burnaby, respectively) were given permission to import 553 and 447 Temporary Foreign Workers respectively. The obvious question is this : How many TFW’s have the hundreds of Wendy’s and McDonald’s franchises all across Canada brought here?   Were there not enough high school or university students or unemployed others available to do these jobs?

Another consideration is that both Calgary and Burnaby have high rents for accommodation. If adult foreign workers are employed in these jobs at Wendy’s and McDonald’s low wages, they are going to join Canada’s “Working Poor”.   B.C. has a “Working Poor” category for social assistance and allows temporary residents to apply for special social assistance after they have been in the province for 18 months.  How many  Temporary Foreign Workers are on that list and are collecting “Working Poor” social assistance which amounts to a taxpayer subsidy to low-wage employers ? How many other provinces have similar “Working Poor” subsidies? Does it make sense to allow employers and their TFW’s to get this benefit?

It’s time to smell the real Temporary Foreign Worker message : something is very rotten.


For a list of the 20 employers who received the most LMO’s  in 2011 :


For information about the inadequacy of  McJobs,  see the following link :