Reforming Canada’s temporary foreign worker system

April 22, 2013

In recent weeks, and in light of reports regarding the hiring of temporary foreign workers at RBC, many of you have contacted me about the rules for hiring temporary foreign workers in Canada.  I too share your general concerns about the increasing use of foreign workers in Canada, and would like to update you on what the government is doing to ensure that Canadians get the first chance at jobs.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) enables employers to hire foreign workers on a temporary basis to fill immediate skills and labour shortages, when Canadian citizens and permanent residents are not available to do the job.

Canadians always deserve the first chance at available jobs, and any situation where already-employed Canadians are replaced by temporary foreign workers is unacceptable. The purpose of the TFWP is to fill labour needs when Canadians are not available for the work required. It was never intended as a means to bring in foreign workers to replace employed Canadian workers.

There is a genuine need for temporary foreign workers in many industries, especially agriculture.  For example, during the fruit and vegetable harvest season, Ontario’s agriculture industry is dependent on the labour of seasonal foreign workers. There are simply no Canadians willing to fill these jobs, and so, for over 40 years, foreign workers from Mexico and the Caribbean have come to Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program to pick Ontario’s fruits and vegetables.

In recent years, the government tightened the rules to prevent approved temporary foreign workers from having their permit renewed beyond 3 years. Budget 2013 is also bringing in restrictions to curtail the use of foreign workers by reforming the TFWP to ensure that Canadians always get the first chance at jobs. This is in keeping with our focus on connecting Canadians with available jobs and ensuring that Canada’s domestic labour force is prioritized for job opportunities.

With the reform details to be announced in the coming months, the government will make four main changes.

First, we will work with employers to ensure that temporary foreign workers are relied upon only when Canadians genuinely cannot fill those jobs.

Second, we will increase the recruitment efforts that employers must make to hire Canadians before they will be eligible to apply for temporary foreign workers.

Third, we will assist employers who legitimately rely on temporary foreign workers due to a lack of qualified Canadian applicants, find ways to ensure that they have a plan to transition to a Canadian workforce over time.

Fourth, we will amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations to restrict the identification of non-official languages as job requirements when hiring through the TFWP.

These positive changes will make the system fairer by ensuring that Canadians are the first to be connected to available jobs, while still ensuring that any temporary labour shortages are filled.

I value your feedback and encourage you to contact me if you have any questions about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. You can reach me by phone at (866) 878-5556 or by email at

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