Is Ireland Receiving Preferential Treatment In Foreign Worker Program?

By Andy Semotiuk | April 14, 2014

Toronto immigration lawyer Andy SemotiukToronto immigration lawyer Andy Semotiuk: The issue of foreign workers and labour market opinions is back in the news, this time with Ireland in the spotlight:

The federal government has quietly doubled the number of Irish workers allowed to enter the country without the usual check to ensure Canadians aren’t being displaced.

The International Experience Canada visa allows anyone aged 18-35 from 32 countries party to a bilateral youth exchange agreement with Canada to work in the country for up to two years without a Labour Market Opinion. Most participants come from Europe and Australia…

But the Canadian government has raised those quotas significantly in recent years for Ireland in particular, a country employers here often look to as a source of skilled workers. The number of Irish workers allowed to come in on the visa increased to 10,750 this year from 4,000 in 2010. Ireland has the second-highest number of places under the program after France, where the allocation of 14,000 spots has not changed since 2010.

Two elements are being mixed together in this news story.

The first is the international working holiday program – generally speaking, a good immigration program if it is applied equally across the board to various countries.

Here is the essence of the problem: why do Canadian employers want to hire temporary foreign workers?

What is wrong in this instance is that Ireland is getting a better deal than other countries, and there doesn’t seem to be any acceptable rationale for that. Everyone should get the same deal, and if you’re making exceptions, then you’d explain why and it had better stick. Doing this quietly behind the scenes is not how immigration policy should work.

Temporary Foreign Worker Program
The second issue is one I’ve talked about before: the transformation of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program into something where any employer who uses it may suddenly find themselves under investigation.

The media frenzy created over employers hiring temporary foreign workers (employers who follow the rules and gain permission to hire foreign workers) is unjustified. Today’s anti-temporary foreign worker attitude in Ottawa, where to gain permission to hire a foreign worker meets with such intense skepticism, desperately needs reconsideration.

Here is the essence of the problem: why do Canadian employers want to hire temporary foreign workers? The answer is because, in most instances, there are no Canadians who can or want to do the job required.
What should Ottawa be doing?
Canadian workers want to block foreign temporary workers from coming to Canada in the vain hope that this will lead to forcing Canadian employers, at least in some cases, to lower their standards and employ who is available. What Ottawa should be doing is helping Canadian employers hire skilled temporary foreign workers, because that will raise the quality of work in Canada. It will make our country more competitive, and thus benefit everyone.

Ottawa should also spend time thinking about how to help unemployed Canadians gain skills that will help them in the workforce, rather than spending so much time hindering business owners in their operations.

Andy Semotiuk is a Canadian and US immigration lawyer with Toronto immigration law firm Pace Law Firm. You can learn more about Andy at My Work Visa.