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Bad-employer blacklist to protect nannies




Dale Brazao


Employers who abuse foreign workers will be blacklisted and denied permission to hire another foreigner for two years, according to tough new regulations proposed by the Harper government.

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The Toronto Star

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Employers who abuse foreign workers will be blacklisted and denied permission to hire another foreigner for two years, according to tough new regulations proposed by the Harper government.

Under the rules proposed by Ottawa, any employer shown to have violated the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and the Live-In Caregivers Program will have their names and addresses posted on a government website so foreign workers will know these employers are ineligible to hire them.

The government is also working on a "robust package of measures to crack down on bogus immigration consultants," said an aide to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

The proposed federal changes come in the wake of Star investigations showing widespread abuse in both programs, chief among them being recruiters bringing foreign workers to Canada with bogus job offers, then shifting them into unauthorized work where employers pay them a fraction of what they were promised. The province has already announced its own action, saying in April it would crack down on recruiters who exploit nannies and other foreign workers.

The first proposal from Kenney's department deals with employers who hire workers under false pretenses. Breaches would include employers paying less than promised, inadequate accommodation and working conditions, and third parties charging fees that contravene provincial laws.

"Employers that abuse their foreign workers can and will be prevented from sponsoring new ones. This is an important punishment," said Alykhan Velshi, an aide to the immigration minister.

The proposed regulations come as a result of consultations among the immigration department, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency, and all will likely play a role in any decision to deny employers foreign workers.

The proposed blacklist, or "roll of shame" as some are calling it, would include information on anyone deemed to have made a bogus job offer in the preceding two years.

"It's a warning to companies and individuals that depend on foreign workers – treat them with respect, otherwise you will lose the ability to sponsor new foreign workers," Velshi noted.

"Enforcing this will be a priority for immigration officials."

The proposed changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act by the immigration department are posted online in the Canada Gazette and on the Immigration Canada website. Stakeholders across Canada have 60 days to comment before the government moves to implement the new rules.

Current regulations provide for a fine of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for up to two years for anyone who "employs a foreign national in a capacity in which the foreign national is not authorized ... to be employed." But a discussion paper accompanying the proposed amendments said those penalties are "administratively burdensome and resource-intensive to apply. Imposing a denial of service on employers is a low-cost and effective response."

Those penalties would remain in the act, said immigration spokesperson Nicolas Fortier.

The next step will involve the companies – called recruiters – who bring workers into the country. The Star found bogus recruiters bring in workers for fake jobs, collecting up to $10,000 in placement fees, then leave the workers without a job when they arrive.

While temporary-worker and caregiver programs are federally run, it is up to provinces to enforce their own labour laws once the foreign worker is in Canada.

The Ontario government plans to introduce legislation shortly that will ban placement fees for all foreign workers and regulate the nanny recruitment industry.

Last fall, the Star detailed the plight of 11 Filipino workers brought to Canada as welders and plumbers and told upon arrival their employer no longer wanted them. They were then spirited to a dilapidated farmhouse in Elmvale and put to work in a water bottling plant or made to clean stables and dig ditches. Instead of the $23 an hour they were promised, the workers were paid between $200 and $900 for six weeks' work. They were rescued after the Filipino consulate raided the farmhouse.

The RCMP investigated but did not lay any charges against either the recruiters who brought the men to Canada with the phony job offers, or the labour boss who exploited them. Most of the men had paid about $12,000 in placement fees to work in Canada.

The Star's investigation into the caregiver program revealed some nanny recruiters were charging between $5,000 and $10,000 for jobs that did not exist. Nanny advocates have long complained that the government chooses the easier route of deporting hapless workers caught working illegally rather than charging the recruiters or the employers.

Since 1999, the total number of temporary foreign workers entering Canada has nearly doubled, increasing from 107,217 in 1999 to 193,061 in 2008, with more than 40 per cent destined for Alberta and British Columbia. Service Canada also approved more than 30,000 applications for nannies in 2008.

The new regulations will put the onus on immigration officers overseas and Human Resources and Skills Development offices across the country to assess the validity of a job offer and determine whether a prospective employer has the means to pay the worker.

The Star investigation uncovered numerous examples of Service Canada officials approving nannies for "phantom employers," people on welfare, and in one case, giving permission to a 4-year-old girl to hire her own nanny.

"If you go to buy a fridge or a stove, the store will do a credit check on you," said a Filipino consulate source. "We've seen job contracts approved for caregivers where no one has checked on whether the employer even exists."

The new regulations would also limit to four years in total the time temporary foreign workers can stay in Canada and prevents them from reapplying for at least six years.


Economic sectors

Occupations in services - Domestic work

Content types

Policy analysis

Target groups

Public awareness

Geographical focuses

Canada, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, British Columbia, Other provinces, Federal, Nova Scotia, and National relevance