India was fourth-largest source country for temporary foreign workers.


THE announcement late last week that the Immigration Department is capping applications to the Canadian Experience Class at 12,000 applications and cutting out certain occupations for eligibility is another example of the government’s flexibility in addressing labour market needs through ministerial instructions. It is also penalizing certain workers brought to Canada under the government’s temporary foreign worker program.
The Canadian Experience Class was created in 2008 to allow certain temporary foreign workers and foreign student graduates with managerial, professional, or technical or trade work experience to apply to become permanent residents. It fit a stated emphasis on the economy, as a means, in the government’s words, of retaining talented and motivated individuals who have demonstrated a strong work ethic, have an ability to contribute to the economy, and will easily integrate into Canadian life.
The basic requirements for the program require an applicant to have at least 12 months of full-time (or an equal amount in part-time) skilled work experience in Canada in the three years before they apply. They must also have gained their experience in Canada with the proper authorization, meet required language levels needed for your job for each language ability (speaking, reading, writing, and listening), and have the experience in managerial jobs, professional jobs, and technical jobs and skilled trades. The government has approved about 25,000 applicants through the program since it was introduced and expects to approve about 10,000 applications this year.
AT the same time the current government has opened up the doors to a large number of temporary foreign workers. The numbers increased from 140,650 at the end of 2005, to 338,213 at the end of 2012. This has occurred despite an increase in the unemployment rate during the same period. During that time the number of foreign workers from India has increased from 6,324 to 22,281. As of December 1, 2012, India was the fourth-largest source country for temporary foreign workers in Canada after the Philippines, United States and Mexico.

More recently the government fast-tracked work permit approvals in Alberta and British Columbia. The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) claims that more than 2,400 permits, many in Alberta, were approved for workers in fast-food restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations. The Federation also claims that in 2012 there were more than 200 complaints about labour standard violations in Alberta, with nearly half found to be legitimate.

The BC Chamber of Commerce has noted that with dramatic increases in foreign workers in Northeastern BC and across the country, there has been an increase in the number of complaints from foreign workers regarding abuse and mistreatment. In September, the BC Human Rights Tribunal ordered Tim Hortons to disclose the information related to four temporary foreign workers from Mexico who claim they were discriminated against by their employer in Dawson Creek.

The influx of foreign workers led to a public backlash earlier this year after several cases became public. The Royal Bank of Canada brought in temporary workers to train for dozens of soon-to-be-outsourced Canada-based jobs and a Chinese-owned mining company was approved to import Chinese coal mining workers into British Columbia. The government has responded with some changes to the temporary worker program, including the introduction of a fee for employers seeking approval to hire foreign workers.


THE specific occupations which have been made ineligible under the Canadian Experience Class include cooks, food service supervisors and retail sales supervisors; the same occupations which the government appears to have helped expedite in handing out temporary work permits according to AFL President Gil McGowan. In a Postmedia story, McGowan states: “They were screwed by being brought into the country to act as pawns to drive down wages and conditions. Now they’re having the door closed in their faces when it comes to access permanent residency.”

The caps and restrictions imposed by the government are under legislative powers enacted by Parliament in 2008. They give the Immigration Minister tremendous administrative flexibility to determine processing levels and cut down on applications being processed through the issuance of Ministerial Instructions. In some cases, they appear to retroactively change the rules by which a person may apply for permanent residence. In this case, some temporary workers who came to Canada with the expectation they may be able to apply to remain permanently may be out of luck.

However, all is not lost for some of the temporary workers. In British Columbia some may still be eligible to apply for permanent residence under the province’s Provincial Nominee Program, either as skilled workers, entry-level or semi-skilled workers, or under the Northeast Pilot Project. There are similar categories under Alberta’s immigration program. With Ministerial Instructions, the immigration rules change regularly so current advice is always required.


William Macintosh started practising as an immigration lawyer in 1984. You can reach him for advice or help on any immigration or citizenship matter at 778-714-8787 or by email at