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Give everyone a chance!

Date and time

2013.06.10 to 2013.09.30, 4:01 PM to 4:01 PM


The number of temporary foreign workers in Canada has more than doubled since the Harper government took office. At the end of 2012, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration reported the presence of 338,000 temporary foreign workers.

This temporary work force is now almost as large as New Brunswick’s entire employed labour force and far exceeds that of Newfoundland and Labrador (not to mention Prince Edward Island.) With remarkably little evidence or public consultation, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) has added the equivalent of a small province to Canada’s labour market. This has the effect of driving down wages and working standards across the board. It is a model of development that harms everyone, and creates a class of unprotected, vulnerable workers.

TFWP has been in Canada for 40 years. The program was designed to fill short-term shortages of executives, academics, engineers and other highly-skilled individuals. A related program, the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Worker program had been established a few years earlier to meet the needs of businesses requiring temporary workers in industries such as agriculture and food processing. Today, the TFWP is open to all occupations in all industries, and for the first time in its history, Canada is admitting more temporary workers than permanent residents, turning the Canadian tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world on its head. In 2011, the number of new non-agricultural workers exceeded 300,000 and temporary workers filled 30% of new jobs created. Temporary workers from abroad have jobs in fast food restaurants, on construction sites, in nursing homes and nightclubs, and are now being employed in increasing numbers in extractive industries, including mining.

In 2012, the federal government changed the rules to allow employers even greater ability to hire temporary workers, including lowering from six weeks to fourteen days the minimum time to advertise jobs to Canadians before temporary workers can be hired. The Harper government, faced with public pressure and a labour campaign decrying the abuses permitted under the TFWP, was forced to retract some of its 2012 measures, including the “15% rule”, which allowed employers to pay temporary workers up to 15% less than the prevailing wage.

Since 2008, the number of temporary foreign workers has increased by 24,000 or 60% in Toronto, 18,000 or 70% in Quebec, and 5,000 or 80% in the Atlantic provinces. Together, these regions of high unemployment account for most of the post-recession increase in Canada’s temporary foreign work force. With the exception of Toronto as well as Newfoundland and Labrador, wages in these regions are below the national average.

These temporary workers are among the most vulnerable populations since their right to stay and work in Canada is tied to a single employer. Without help from labour unions or civil society, temporary workers become a compliant and low-wage workforce that is open to tremendous abuses. There have been numerous and well-publicized abuses of foreign workers.

The central objective of the Give Everyone a Chance for Canada’s Future campaign is to bring about much-needed changes to the TFWP and to the Harper government’s low-wage model of economic development, by:

ensuring that Canadians and permanent residents are given genuine opportunities to fill job vacancies before employers can bring in temporary workers;
insisting that employers provide training for Canadians and permanent residents for available jobs before being allowed to hire temporary workers;
eliminating the creation of a two-tier workforce where many temporary foreign workers are subject to abuse and exploitation by ensuring that all temporary workers have a clear path to Canadian citizenship and have the same rights at permanent residents; and
increasing oversight and enforcement of the TFWP.
Introducing larger penalties for employers who violate the provisions of the program.

Coordinated by

File Attachments


    Economic sectors

    Agriculture and horticulture workers, Occupations in services - Domestic work, and General relevance - all sectors

    Content types

    Policy analysis and Support initiatives

    Target groups

    (Im)migrants workers, Journalists, Public awareness, Researchers, Unions, and NGOs/community groups/solidarity networks

    Geographical focuses

    National relevance


    French and English