[Canada] We need foreign workers, they need fair treatment – by Tim Harper (Toronto Star – November 14, 2012)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

OTTAWA – The day Canadians decide en masse that they will relocate to northern Alberta or northern British Columbia to take available jobs, we can have a proper debate in this country over the need for the Temporary Foreign Worker program.

Until that fanciful day arrives, let’s accept that this program fills a huge void in the Canadian labour market in 2012.

There are two other more relevant questions to debate — why has this program been left open to such obvious abuse and why has its use accelerated so quickly under the Conservative government?

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley has been forced into a long overdue review of the program by organized labour in British Columbia after a subsidiary of the Chinese Dehua Mines advertised for workers fluent in Mandarin, apparently ignoring the requirement that efforts first be made to locate or train Canadian workers to fill the mines jobs.

“Our government believes that Canadians must always have first crack at job opportunities in Canada,’’ Finley said.

A day after the review was announced, four temporary foreign workers from Mexico launched a human rights complaint against their boss at two Tim Hortons outlets in Dawson Creek, B.C., accusing him of rent gouging, forcing them into overcrowded housing, threatening to summarily send them home and general ill treatment.

There have been, historically, two groups of employers who use the Temporary Foreign Worker program.

There are those who are filling a legitimate labour need, cannot find Canadians to fill the jobs, treat the foreign workers with respect and pay them proper wages.

And then there are those who see the program as an easy shortcut to cheap labour, a move that exploits the workers and drives down wages generally for Canadians and temporary foreign workers.

Foreign workers in this country toil in the confectionary industry, the meat packing industry, the oil production industry and all manner of industry in between. At any given time, there are more than 400,000 of them in this country.

If this program was shut down, it is no exaggeration to say that unemployment would jump and businesses would close.

While the number of immigrants arriving in Canada under the family class, economic and refugee programs has declined under the Conservatives, there has been a 50 per cent jump in the temporary workers class since Stephen Harper took power.

In the British Columbia mines case, it isn’t clear whether a bloated bureaucracy administering the program at human resources and skills development just missed the wording of the application for workers or saw it and looked the other way, because there are no regulations preventing prospective employers from listing proficiency in another language — even though Finley singled that out as particularly troubling.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1287333–tim-harper-we-need-foreign-workers-they-need-fair-treatment

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