Foreign workers granted longer stay in Canada

Posted by admin on Feb 23rd, 2007

CBC News, 23 February 2007

Foreign workers will be allowed to remain in Canada for twice as long as before, Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg said Friday, a move that has angered at least one labour group. Solberg said Canada is running out of workers and the rules are changing to help companies that are having trouble finding staff during an economic boom. The government is doubling the time that a lower-skilled foreign worker can stay in Canada, from 12 months to 24 months, he said.

The length of time that live-in caregivers can stay in Canada is also being extended, from one year to three years and three months, he said.

Solberg, who made the announcement in Vancouver, said the changes will allow employers who recruit and train foreigners to get a better return on their investment.

Mark Von Schellwitz, vice-president of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said he supports the move.

“In our industry, we are anticipating, in B.C. alone, a shortage of 44,000 people in the next ten years, and it is going to get worse and worse. So we also need a permanent solution as well.”

Schellwitz said restaurants would also like to see changes to make it easier for servers and cooks to remain permanently in Canada.

Albertje Willems, chief operating officer with K&F Global Partners in Vancouver, said the changes will not only make a difference to foreign workers, but to Canadians and the economy.

Willems’ company hires workers from Europe for construction projects in Alberta and B.C.

“There is not a large enough Canadian labour force,” she said. “In some areas of Canada, projects are not being completed and sometimes not even being started.”

But Wayne Peppard, of the Building and Construction Trades Council, said the announcement does nothing to protect workers from exploitation.

“These people are vulnerable. They are indentured to their employer – whether it is 12 months or 24 months – they are still indentured to their employer,” Peppard said.

“If they don’t like the employer, they can’t move. If the employer doesn’t like them, they are gone home. And that’s not fair to the workers.”

Peppard added that foreign workers doing construction on the Canada Line, a rail-based rapid transit line in B.C., were being paid an illegal wage until his union stepped in last summer.

But Solberg said if an employer is caught exploiting the program, they will lose the ability to participate.

“There are very few examples of this occurring but when it does occur, it’s dealt with quickly and decisively,” he said.

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