GATINEAU, Que.—The federal government is rolling back the “four-in, four-out” rule and planning several other changes to Canada’s much-debated Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
John McCallum, the federal minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship announced Dec. 13 the Liberal government will implement of number of “initial improvements” while it works on developing a more comprehensive policy.
“In many ways, the four-year rule put a great deal of uncertainty and instability on both temporary workers and employers,” McCallum said. “We had the sense that it was an unnecessary burden on applicants and employers, and also on officers who process applications.”
A standing committee report confirmed this suspicion, McCallum said, adding that the committee’s recommendations required rapid action.
The “four-in, four-out” rule was introduced by the Conservative government in 2011 and mandates some temporary workers leave the country for at least four years after working in Canada for four.
Along with scrapping the policy, the Liberals said they will require low-wage employers, to advertise positions to more under-represented groups of Canadians, including youth, persons with disabilities, Indigenous people and newcomers, before turning to the TFW program.
The government is leaving the the current cap on the proportion of low-wage temporary foreign workers that can be employed at a given worksite alone, however.
For employers who accessed the TFW before June of 2014—when another round of changes were instituted—the cap is set at 20 per cent, while those that accessed the program after 2014 can employ no more than 10 per cent temporary workers, excluding some seasonal industries.
The government also said it is looking to develop a way for more temporary workers to gain access to permanent residency, though it is still working on the details.
A consistent advocate of a pathway to permanent residency, UFCW Canada applauded the changes, calling them an “important first step in fixing a broken immigration system.”
“All migrant workers should have the opportunity to access permanent immigration status, and ultimately citizenship, as that is the best way to reduce the exploitative nature of the TFWP,” Paul Meinema, the union’s national president, said in a statement.
The Liberal government said they would table a “full response” to the standing committee’s recommendations next year.