New regulations send shockwaves to businesses with foreign workers

Proposed amendments would grant broad powers to government officials for compliance investigations
By Sergio Karas
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 07/29/2013

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been in the limelight for much of 2013. It attempts to strike a balance between the protection of the local labour force and the needs of employers to hire qualified workers not readily available in the labour market, but concern over the size of the program has become a politically charged topic pitting employers against labour unions. Now the federal government has entered the fray, introducing new regulations that give sweeping powers to officials administering the program.

The new regulations usher in a new era of increased scrutiny on employers, who have come to be viewed negatively in the labour market and accused of preferring foreign workers instead of Canadians.

On June 8, 2013, the federal government introduced proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act Regulations, implementing changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The proposed amendments tackle many aspects of the employer’s responsibilities under the program, including increased protection for foreign workers from abuse and exploitation, protecting the integrity of the Canadian labour market by requiring increased efforts by employers to hire Canadians, and increased compliance. However, the most controversial aspect of the proposed amendments is granting Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) officials the authority to conduct inspections to verify compliance with the conditions imposed on employers of temporary foreign workers.