The Canadian government is poised to introduce changes to the system that allows Canadian employers to hire foreign workers. In reaction to the political controversy that arose when a Canadian bank was discovered hiring foreign workers after laying off Canadian workers, the government promised to tighten up the system.
The system as it stands now is one in which a Canadian business can request permission from the Canadian government to hire a foreign worker through the request for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO). An LMO is an opinion by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada that the employment of a foreign worker would have a positive or neutral impact on the Canadian labour market. In other words, the worker would not adversely impact the employment prospects of a Canadian worker.
Typically, employers requesting an LMO must generally advertise an employment vacancy in the local labour market at labour market wages and working conditions and demonstrate that none of the applicants were qualified to do the position. The employer must then demonstrate that the foreign worker is an appropriate fit for the position.
In the last ten years, the number of foreign workers in Canada has more than tripled, and with Canada’s current unemployment rate at more than 7%, concerns have arisen that these workers are filling positions which could be filled by Canadians. And with the restrictions imposed by the government on permanent immigration by skilled professionals, many have wondered whether Canada is moving toward a “guest worker” system.
Therefore, the considerations to be balanced by the government in changing the system for hiring foreign workers are many: how to ensure that Canadians are not prejudiced in their job hunt, how to ensure that wages are not being depressed, how to ensure that Canadian businesses are not hurt by the lack of appropriate skilled workers, and how to ensure that the rights of foreign workers are protected.
While the Canadian public is rightly concerned about the protection of employment opportunities for Canadians, the fact remains that there are some positions that Canadians will not do, based upon inconvenient hours, long work days or other unpalatable conditions. There are also some jobs which skilled foreign workers are better placed to do, and will lead to more prosperous Canadian businesses.
In the end, a balanced approach, which has been the approach of our best immigration polices, will be most effective. This approach will not make it too onerous for Canadian businesses with legitimate labour needs to find the right workers, and will at the same time ensure that Canadians get the first opportunities to be hired or trained.