Temporary foreign worker program in Canada

Unemployment benefits British Columbia Sick leave

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is a program of the Government of Canada that allows employers in Canada to hire foreign nationals.[1] Between 2006 and 2014, more than 500,000 workers (referred to as Temporary Foreign Workers or TFWs) were brought into Canada under the program.[2]

Between 1993 and 2013, the total number of TFW more than doubled to 338,189 workers.[3][4] When the program started in 1973, most of the workers brought in were high-skill workers, such as specialist doctors.[3] In 2002, however, a "low-skilled workers" category was added, which now makes up most of the temporary foreign workforce.[3][5] In 2006, the program was expanded, introducing fast-tracking for some locations.[3] It was revised again in 2013, raising wages, charging employer fees, and removing the accelerated applications.[6]

It is against Canadian federal rules to bring in temporary foreign workers if Canadian workers are available. Apart from their temporary status, TFWs have the same employment rights as Canadian workers, and can phone a free 1-800 number for help.[7] However, because of the way in which the Canadian residence of a temporary foreign worker is tied to an employer, some TFWs have said they can be treated worse than Canadian co-workers.[8]

For an employer to hire a TFW, or for a TFW to work in a company they started in Canada, they may need to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). A positive LMIA or a confirmation letter grants permission to the employer who proves that there is a need for a foreign worker to fill the job as no Canadian worker is available and that such hiring will not negatively impact the Canadian labour market.[9][10]



In April 2013, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) began reporting on issues surrounding the hiring of temporary foreign workers.

On 6 April, CBC News reported that Canadian IT workers at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) were losing their jobs to replacement foreign workers, who were brought from India by outsourcing firm iGATE. Existing RBC employees trained their replacements before they themselves were laid off, causing their appeal to the media.[11][12] Additionally in 2013, CBC found that, in Saskatchewan, 65% of recent newly created jobs were held by temporary foreign workers,[13] and in Nova Scotia over one thousand employers had requested foreign workers.[14]

CBC also reported that a Chinese company that owns a mine in British Columbia was attempting to import workers from China.[15] According to the Huffington Post, one of the requirements of the job was the ability to speak Mandarin Chinese.[16]

In October, Huffington Post reported that the Alberta Federation of Labour said foreign workers were displacing Canadian workers in Fort McMurray. The report claimed that 270 Canadian workers employed by a Toronto-based firm were to be replaced by foreign workers employed by an Italian firm.[17] On 23 October, Global News reported that Farmers of North America, in Saskatoon, was helping farmers recruit TFWs in order to help them. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture reportedly estimated that Canada was in need of 30,000 seasonal and longer-term farm workers. Employment Canada acknowledged that there was a shortage of agricultural workers.[18]

Political reaction

The move[clarification needed] resulted in a strong negative reaction from the public, and garnered attention from the office of the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Accordingly, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley issued a statement saying the situation is unacceptable if it is true.[19][20]

RBC responded to the controversy by issuing a statement denying the charges and offering clarification of the situation.[21] While a reported 45 employees lost their jobs, the bank nevertheless had indicated that they intended to expand this practice in the coming year.[22]

In May, the TFWP was the focus of debate between the Conservative government and the NDP Official Opposition, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper was questioned at the House of Commons about the program. CBC reported that some employers were said to be abusing the TFWP by bringing in temporary foreign workers to areas where qualified local workers were collecting Employment Insurance (EI) benefits.[23] During Question Period, Harper said that the government had addressed this issue before 2013, and that changes had been made to both the EI and TFW programs in order to address these issues. He stated that the NDP did not cooperate at the time in the introduction of the changes, and that NDP Members of Parliament requested more foreign workers in their own ridings.[24]


In January 2014, Employment Minister Jason Kenney pledged a second round of reforms citing employee frustration.[2] In April, issues with the program came under scrutiny by CBC relating to the procurement of temporary foreign unskilled labour by McDonald's Canada.[25] On April 24, Kenney announced that the TWFP had been suspended for the food-services industry.[26] It has since been renewed.


In December 2014, CBC reported that Microsoft Canada obtained an exemption from the federal government that will allow the company to bring in an unspecified number of TFW to British Columbia. The trainee foreign workers—most of whom would be from India and China—were to be hired without requiring Microsoft to look for Canadian workers who could fill the positions.[27]

See also


  1. ^ "Fact Sheet — Temporary Foreign Worker Program". Government of Canada. 28 March 2012.
  2. ^ a b Wingrove, Josh (27 January 2014). "Ottawa to revise foreign-worker rules as employers complain of delays". The Globe and Mail.
  3. ^ a b c d "Rise in foreign temp workers questioned by labour groups". CBC News.
  4. ^ "Jason Kenney suspends food services sector from foreign worker program: Tim Harper". The Star. 24 April 2014.
  5. ^ "Reforming the Temporary Foreign Worker Program". Employment and Social Development Canada. Government of Canada. 21 July 2014. Archived from the original on 25 December 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  6. ^ "Foreign worker program gets new rules, higher fees". CBC News.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 December 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "McDonald's foreign workers call it 'slavery'". The National. CBC News. Archived from the original on 24 December 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  9. ^ McKinsley, Sean. "What is an LMIA/LMO and why do I need one?". Canada Immigration & Visa Services. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  10. ^ Misina, Nikola (15 July 2019). "Hiring Foreign Workers in Canada: How to Hire a Foreign Worker in Canada". Canada Immigration & Visa Services. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  11. ^ "RBC replaces Canadian staff with foreign workers". CBC News. British Columbia. 6 April 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  12. ^ "RBC temporary workers: Ottawa concerned about move". Financial Post. 7 April 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  13. ^ "Labour congress warns of foreign worker 'exploitation'." CBC News. 11 April 2013. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  14. ^ "1,029 Nova Scotia employers request foreign workers." CBC News. 10 April 2013. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  15. ^ "B.C. mine's temporary foreign workers case in Federal Court - Business." CBC News. 9 April 2013. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  16. ^ Temporary Foreign Worker Program May Be Distorting Labour Market Needs: Study. Huffingtonpost.ca. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  17. ^ "Temporary Foreign Workers in Fort McMurray Shutting Out Canadian Labour: Alberta Federation of Labour". Huffington Post. 10 October 2013.
  18. ^ "Saskatoon company helping farmers hire temporary foreign workers". Global News. 23 October 2013.
  19. ^ "Statement from the Honourable Diane Finley". Newswire. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. 7 April 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  20. ^ Mehta, Diana (7 April 2013). "RBC Foreign Workers Report Sparks Discontent, Company Will Discuss Hiring Practices With Government". Huffington Post. The Canadian Press. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  21. ^ "rbc.com - RBC - Media Newsroom". RBC. 17 October 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  22. ^ Sophie Cousineau (8 April 2013). "Ottawa to probe RBC job outsourcing". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  23. ^ "Temporary foreign workers hired in areas with EI claimants." CBC News. 7 May 2013. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  24. ^ "Harper says foreign worker program is being fixed." CBC News. 7 April 2013. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  25. ^ "McDonald's foreign worker practices face growing investigation." CBC News. 14 April 2014. Retrieved on 2014-04-14.
  26. ^ "Businesses 'will be hurt' by temporary foreign worker restaurant ban: Industry | CTV News".
  27. ^ "Federal government allows Microsoft to bring foreign worker trainees". CBC News.