Canadian government gives go ahead to hiring foreign hockey coaches

Canada Hockey Visa

Is it possible that there’s a shortage of qualified Canadians available to coach Canada’s national sport?

That’s the question that has emerged in the wake of a recent revelation that Canada’s government had approved six Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) visas for the position of coaching hockey.

Given that temporary foreign workers are only supposed to be hired if no qualified Canadian can be found—and that hockey is a beloved national sport played by millions of Canadians—the story is seen by some as an illustration that TFW visa approval may be too lenient for Canadian employers; the report also comes in the wake of recent high profile media stories about alleged employer abuse of the TFW program at McDonald’s in British Columbia (BC).

The media report revealed that since 2010, the Canadian government has approved six Labour Market Opinion (LMO) applications to bring in foreign workers to serve as hockey coaches. In order for LMO approval to be granted, the government effectively was conceding that no qualified Canadian hockey coaches could be found.

The hockey coach story is just the latest in a series of high profile examples of alleged abuse of the TFW program, leading to a pledge by Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney to crack down on employers abusing the program.

In response to media queries about the alleged lack of qualified Canadians for hockey coaching, a government spokesperson said that even the National Hockey League (NHL) would be included among those organizations considered for LMO approval.

The spokesperson for Minister Kenney’s office confirmed that there are cases of NHL teams requiring “coaches and training staff with very specialized skills and experience”, although she was quick to add that these cases are “extremely rare.”

Although Canadian immigration law usually exempts professional athletes from requiring work visas, coaches usually are required to receive work visa approval unless they are from countries that have reciprocal programs that allow for hiring Canadians in return.

Still, the revelation that coaching jobs in Canada’s national sport required foreign workers due to the lack of aptly skilled Canadians, is expected to add to the growing national debate over the continued use—and oversight—of the TFW program.

New limits placed on Canadian universities’ ability to offer immigration advice

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Recent legislative changes mean that Canada’s universities will now be limited in the amount of advice they can offer to international students and faculty members.

Changes to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) places limits on third parties’ abilities to provide—or even offer—advice or representation at all stages of the immigration application, unless they are certified to do so. In the case of international students and faculty at Canada’s universities, the restricted ‘third parties’ would be the universities themselves.

Many major universities across Canada have provided both direction, and assistance, to international students and faculty in their immigration to Canada. However, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has confirmed that the new IRPA regulations means that university employees are prohibited from offering immigration advice to both international faculty and students.

The hiring of academic faculty from abroad is considered by the government of Canada to be a form of hiring ‘temporary foreign workers’.

In the case of academia, Employment and Skills Development Canada (ESDC)—working with the country’s universities—has established special criteria to assist Canadian universities in their recruitment efforts of foreign academics; still, certain academic foreign workers are exempt from government requirements, including academic consultants and examiners, graduate assistants, and self-funded researchers.

In all other cases, before academic immigrant workers can be hired, the ESDC reviews the wages offered by universities to foreign academics and compares them to those offered Canadian academics under existing collective bargaining agreements.

The usual hiring procedure of foreign workers for academia typically includes all the other steps required in hiring temporary foreign workers, including advertising vacant positions, an attempt to first hire Canadian citizens, and receipt of a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) in pursuit of final approval by CIC of a temporary work permit.

While most major Canadian universities can still offer publicly available immigration information for their international students and faculty, the new IRPA rules mean that previously available specific case advice cannot be provided.

A Record Number of Canadian Visas Issued To Filipinos In 2013

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Despite the geographic distance between the two countries, Canadian ties to the Philippines remain strong, with more than 47,000 Canadian visitor visas issued to Filipinos last year.

Further strengthening the ties between the two nations is the fact that nearly 30,000 Philippine citizens gained Canadian permanent residency in 2013.

Filipino interest in both visiting, and immigrating, to Canada is thriving, as last year the Philippines ranked third among the top sources of countries for immigration to Canada. In addition, the record-setting 47,000 visitor visas issued to Filipinos last year represent a dramatic 57 percent increase since 2006.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), changes and improvements to the country’s immigration system are making it simpler for Filipinos to both visit, and immigrate, to Canada. CIC believes that the Multiple Entry Visa (MEV)—allowing visitors to enter and reenter Canada for six months at a time for 10 years—is also making it more convenient for visitors from Philippines and other nations to come to Canada.

Since its introduction in 2011, the MEV has grown to become one of the more popular Canadian visitor visas, with more than 1 million MEV visas issued to visitors from around the globe.

The strong number of Filipino visitors and migrants to Canada in 2013 is also in keeping with the long history of close ties between the two nations. In fact, more than 650,000 Canadian residents can trace their family history to the Philippines—not an insignificant number in a country with only 35 million people.

No surprise, then, that a growing number of Filipinos choose to visit their friends and family in Canada every year, with no signs of a slowdown; the number of Canadian visitor visas issued to Filipinos continues to grow steadily, expanding by over six percent just since 2012.

Canada’s Government and Manufacturers Partner in Fund for Skilled Immigrants

Canada’s federal government is partnering with the nation’s manufacturers to reach out to underemployed skilled immigrants who’ve received their training outside the country.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney recently announced funding for a series of initiatives that will partner the government with the Canadian Manufacturers And Exporters (CME) in an outreach to skilled immigrants whose training abroad may help alleviate Canada’s skilled labor shortage.

Kenney said he was “frustrated” at seeing a considerable number of skilled and intelligent immigrants who “left behind a high standard of living” in their home countries, only to arrive in Canada and remain underemployed because their education abroad is not recognized.

The government partnership with CME will include a number of initiatives designed to both assist skilled immigrants find employment, as well as meet Canada’s shortage of skilled workers. Four million dollars in funding will be provided to the CME to develop occupational standards designed to help colleges in their development of curriculum that meets manufacturing needs; an additional $1 million is being set aside to establish regional committees that will give employers and educators an opportunity to discuss regional labor shortages.

The partnership between the government and CME will also result in a skills lab forum, designed to provide Canadian employers, educators and legislators an opportunity to discuss how best to solve the skilled worker shortage in the manufacturing sector; there is a general agreement that skilled immigrant labor will play a key role in that solution.

According to CME President Jason Myers, the lack of skilled workers in Canada’s manufacturing industries is widespread, with as many as half of all Canadian manufacturers facing a labor shortage.

“Over 50 percent of companies across Canada say they can’t find the people with the skills that they require to grow their business,” Myers said.

“The challenge is too big for the government to handle on their own, and it’s too big for businesses to handle on their own. It requires a partnership (between both parties).”

Report Finds Ontario Recruiters Abusing Foreign Workers

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A newly published report alleges that Ontario employment recruiters are illegally charging fees to temporary foreign workers for jobs that may not even exist, and in some cases also seizing workers’ passports.

Published by The Metcalf Foundation, the report states that recruiters are charging temporary foreign workers fees as high as $12,000 for jobs that may not exist, and the practice is most commonly found among live-in caregivers and migrant workers. The industries most commonly affected, according to the report, are food processing, agriculture and cleaning.

The report points out that, in Ontario, the only foreign workers protected under the Ontario Employment Protection For Foreign Nationals Act of 2009 are caregivers such as nannies, and those who take care of the disabled and elderly. However, according to the report, that law provides absolutely no protection for other migrant workers, and is not even working well to protect caregivers from being exploited by recruiters of ill repute.

The report says that some recruiters are illegally charging foreign workers anywhere from $3,500 to $12,000, despite the fact that individuals caught breaking the law can be fined up to $50,000 or one year in jail, and companies can be fined up to $100,000 for a first-time offence.

However, the report is critical of the government’s enforcement of these laws, and finds that since 2010 only $12,000 in fees have been levied from a total of only eight investigations.

The report finds that a common scheme used by illicit recruiters is called “release on arrival,” wherein migrant workers pay a fee for a job in Canada, only to be told when they arrive the job is non-existent or is a completely different position. An added danger for immigrant workers is if they take a position other than the one they are authorized to do they risk losing their status in the country.

According to the report, Ontario should take a lesson from its neighboring province of Manitoba when deciding how to regulate recruitment of immigrant workers.

Manitoba employers hiring immigrant workers are required to register with the provincial employment standards branch, and provide details about the migrant worker.

For their part, Manitoba recruiters are also required to put up a $10,000 non-refundable deposit in case they do breach any law, while audits and targeted sweeps by provincial officials are regularly conducted; none of those regulatory practices currently take place in Ontario.

Traveling Exhibition Honoring Canadian Immigration Receives $500,000 Donation

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A national exhibit honoring the more than 1 million Canadian immigrants who entered Canada via Halifax’s famed Pier 21 received a boost with a $500,000 donation from the Royal Bank of Canada’s RBC Foundation.

The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 will be launching a traveling exhibit and community outreach honoring Canada’s immigrant history, of which Halifax’s Pier 21 played a vital role: It’s estimated that about one in five Canadians has a family history linked directly to the pier.

The museum’s “Canada Day 1: Traveling Exhibition & Community Outreach” will offer visitors a “living [immigrant] history, including displays of personal stories, original artworks and archive images.”

The exhibit is part of The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21’s overall mandate to explain and celebrate the critically important role that immigration has historically played in Canada’s history. Based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Pier 21 is an important Canadian historic landmark—in many ways, the Canadian equivalent of New York City’s Ellis Island, a landing point for immigrants from around the world.

In announcing it’s $500,000 donation to the Immigration Museum, Royal Bank of Canada Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Gord Nixon said that Canadian immigration is “one of the main pathways to nation building” resulting in Canadian diversity which is a “critical component of our (country’s) economic success.”

For its part, the Immigration Museum sees its traveling exhibit as an opportunity to take its message about the importance of Canadian immigration to communities across Canada.

According to the museum’s CEO Marie Chapman, “this ($500,000) gift comes at a defining moment in our evolution as a new national immigration museum, and will allow us to expand our reach in communities across the country and deepen our impact on the lives of Canadians.”

More information about The Canadian Immigration Museum at Pier 21 and the traveling immigration exhibit is available at the museum’s website.

Government Investigates Foreign Worker Abuse at BC McDonalds

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The Canadian government is investigating claims of alleged abuse of temporary foreign workers by a McDonald’s franchise operation in British Columbia (BC), and has blacklisted the franchisee from future foreign work permits until the conclusion of the investigation.

A report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) revealed allegations of abuse of the temporary foreign workers at a Victoria, BC-based McDonald’s franchise. An employee at the McDonald’s operations told the CBC that temporary foreign workers are receiving more shifts, while Canadian workers are being cut back in an effort to lower costs. The allegation is that the franchiser is bringing in Filipino workers in lieu of hiring fully qualified local citizens.

During its investigation of the allegations, the Canadian government has frozen the employer’s ability to hire any additional temporary foreign workers, pending the results of the inquiry. A spokesperson for Employment Minister Jason Kenney said the minister’s office wanted to hear from any job applicants who felt they’d been affected by the alleged practices.

A McDonald’s spokesperson confirmed to CBC that the three Victoria-based franchises employ 26 temporary foreign workers. A number of local applicants have complained that their applications were being overlooked, while at the same time the stores were hiring temporary workers from the Philippines. In addition, local employees had their hours cut, while foreign workers were given extra work.

Federal laws prohibit the hiring of temporary foreign workers if a qualified Canadian citizen is available for hire.

In a statement issued by his office, Employment Minister Kenney said “inspectors from my department did an on-site inspection at the location in Victoria, and I suspended all work permits in process…[as] I have reasonable grounds to believe that this employer provided Employment and Social Development Canada with false, misleading or inaccurate information.”

The federal employment minister added that there are serious consequences for employers who don’t adhere to Canada’s employment and immigration laws. “If we hear cases like that … we will not tolerate it,” Kenney added. “They will be put on the blacklist. And as soon as the monetary fines are in place, we will be throwing the book at them.”

For its part, McDonald’s—who employs 3,400 temporary foreign workers in Canada—issued a statement saying it was “terminating its relationship” with the franchisee in question. The company also said it’s undertaking a “comprehensive review” of business practices to ensure Canadian franchisers are operating in sync with Canada’s immigration and employment laws.

‘Express Entry’ To Be Canada’s New Model For Economic Immigration

Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has introduced an immigration model titled “Express Entry,” which will serve as Canada’s new system to actively recruit economic immigrants.

Commencing in 2015, the new Express Entry system is designed to make Canada’s immigration system more flexible and responsive to the country’s labor needs.  Alexander explained that the new immigration model will also expedite permanent residency for candidates with valid job offers that can’t be filled by Canadians.

In fact, the expedited permanent residency will serve as a key difference between the Express Entry system and the current Temporary Foreign Worker program.

The name Express Entry replaces “Expression of Interest,” the title previously used for \the new 2015 immigration model. Under the new system, the Canadian government will be able to select the immigrants that it deems to be best suited for available openings, rather than simply those who were the first in the application line.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) also believes the new system will help cut back on immigration backlogs, allowing the government to determine immigration numbers that are more in line with the country’s economic needs of the day.

The CIC is promising that under the Express Entry system, applicants who are invited to work in Canada can expect visa processing time of six months or less when employed in four key economic streams:

  • The Federal Skilled Worker Program
  • The Federal Skilled Trades Program
  • Canadian Experience Class
  • And a portion of the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)

Under the new Express Entry model, employers will also play a large role in selecting immigrants, as well as providing evidence to support their applications. In keeping with that fact, Alexander also announced that CIC will co-sponsor, along with the province’s and territories, a series of cross-Canada information sessions. The sessions will be designed to familiarize employers with their role in the new Express Entry system.

The federal government plans to invest $14 million over the next two years in the Express Entry model, with an additional annual commitment of $4.7 million per year after that.

BC Industry: Government Leaders Plan Immigration Strategy to Address Expected Labor Shortage

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With almost 1 million new jobs expected in British Columbia (BC) by 2020, leaders from the political, business and educational worlds recently met to develop a new immigration strategy designed to meet head-on a critical shortage of skilled BC workers.

In fact, BC’s Deputy Employment Minister Dave Byng told the gathering of business and government leaders that his province expects 1 million job openings by 2020, and will require immigrant workers to fill many of those expected positions.

According to the BC Labor Market Outlook 2010-2020, Canada’s most western province will face a severe shortage of at least 61,500 skilled workers by 2020. The main reasons for the expected worker shortage are an aging workforce, low birthrates, economic growth in emerging sectors and major natural resources projects.

With 47 major projects, each valued at $500 million or more in the works—and most of which will be in Northern BC—Byng told the meeting that the majority of the expected openings will likely be in the province’s construction and operations sectors.

Byng explained that while the construction jobs will most likely become available between 2016-2018 and be shorter term, the operations positions will be created as each project begins, and will likely be more permanent in nature.

Byng added that his government’s first priority is to try and find native British Columbians to fill those openings; the next step will be seeking Canadians from other parts of Canada. However, he also predicted BC residents and other Canadians would not be able to fill all the expected positions, and that Temporary Foreign Workers will most likely play a key role in meeting the province’s future employment needs.

Canada’s federal immigration minister Chris Alexander also spoke at the meeting, and told attendees that changes are coming to the national immigration policy that will bring skilled workers to Canada within a 6-month period. Alexander also addressed BC’s expected labor shortage, and said that in order to meet employment needs, the province will be allowed to exceed its quota of skilled workers available through the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

Alexander added that the new federal Expression of Interest (EOI) system, which will be introduced in 2015, will allow Canadian employers to select immigrant workers from a pool of candidates who will then be judged based on a point system. Immigrant workers with the skills most in demand will be given top priority.

“Those with a job offer, when a Canadian is not found to fill that position, will have an almost automatic claim on our immigration system,” Alexander told the gathering.

Opponents To Canada’s New Immigration Law Create Online Petition

Although the Canadian government has named it’s new immigration law the “Strengthening Canada’s Immigration Act,” not everyone shares the view that the proposed bill will accomplish that goal.

Some opponents of certain aspects of the new immigration law are taking to the Internet to voice their opposition to changes in Canada’s immigration rules. In their petition on the website Change.org, some Canadian immigrants say parts of the law “unfairly targets and devalues the contributions made by one specific group of immigrants, namely, former foreign workers and international students who became Canadian permanent residents in the recent years.”

One of the primary sponsors of the online petition—who is a recent immigrant to Canada—has been the focus of media reports and vocal in his criticism of the perceived unfairness of some elements of the new immigration law. Alex Linkov, a design engineer who immigrated to Canada from Israel in 2010, is strongly opposed to the change in the new immigration bill that states “that time spent in Canada on temporary study or work permits will no longer be counted towards citizenship applications.”

The petition also opposes the change in the immigration rules that extends the residency requirements for citizenship, particularly as it pertains to those who have previously held work or study permits. Under the new immigration law, immigrants will be required to spend four out of the previous six years residing in Canada, as opposed to the previous law requiring residency in three out of the prior four years.

In the petition, Linkov and his supporters claim that by not recognizing the time accrued by those who’ve held Canadian work and study permits, the new Canadian residency policy is “contrary to practices of many other countries—such as Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and many more who count temporary residence in full towards citizenship applications.”

The petitioners also warn that by making these changes “retroactive” the new law will ultimately damage Canada’s international reputation and “turn away thousands of prospective students and specialists” from immigrating to the country.

A spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) recently responded to the complaints, stating that residency requirements in the new immigration law “create a level playing field for all citizenship applicants and demonstrate their permanent commitment to Canada.”