A few things on the TFW scandal

As we are bombarded with daily news items on the sad state and widespread abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program, please consider these few points before making up your mind on it:

  1. Not every “foreigner” you see working in Canada is a TFW – many are permanent residents and naturalized citizens;
  2. Not every TFW is here on an LMO-based work permit. There are many other kinds of non-LMO work permits, such as open work permits, treaty-based work permits or intra-company transferee work permits;
  3. Despite all the media reports, the so-called blacklist of employers who have lost their LMO-privileges is very short;
  4. According to federal government statistics, there is a skill shortage of chefs and cooks. Even so, HRDSC has issued a moratorium on all LMOs in all food-service occupations. Including drycleaners (for real). So even though there is a need for foreign workers, the government has chosen a punitive approach against the entire food service industry;
  5. At the same time HRDSC issued its moratorium, CIC opened up a permanent residence option under the Skilled Trades Program to chefs and cooks. The maximum number of chefs and cooks CIC will allow to apply for permanent residence in 2014? 100. That’s it. For all of Canada.
  6. TFWs who are here working in legitimate jobs that Canadians legitimately don’t want, who are paying taxes, and EI and CPP and who are often separated from their families for years should be eligible to apply for permanent residence. Full stop. Giving people the rights and freedom that PR provides is the surest way to stop exploitative employers.
  7. Everyone in Canada on a work permit pays into CPP and EI the same as any other employee, even though, as TFWs, they are ineligible to claim EI and will likely never be in Canada long enough to collect CPP;
  8. Once the new citizenship rules change, it will take longer and be harder to get Canadian citizenship. Consider the average live-in caregiver who comes to Canada as a TFW. She has to work for 2 years full-time before she is eligible to apply for permanent residence. The permanent residence application process takes 2-4 years depending on how many overseas dependents she has. Once she is a PR, she will have to live here for 4 years (under the current rules it is 2 years) before she can apply for citizenship, which will take another year or more to be processed. That’s about ten years before she becomes a citizen.

All of this is to say that there is more to all of this than meets the eye. From the media and reactions, the foreign workers seem to be taking the brunt of the public vitriol. And that’s pretty sad.