Duration limit lifted from foreign worker program

Canadian farm groups are among the sectors hailing Ottawa’s decision to axe the cumulative duration rule, or “four-in, four-out” policy, which stood to sideline temporary foreign workers from the Canadian market.

The federal government announced last Tuesday (Dec. 13) it would lift the restriction, effective immediately.

The cumulative duration rule had been in place in April 2011, limiting work for some temporary foreign workers in Canada to four years who then became ineligible to work in Canada for the next four years.

“In many ways, the four-year rule put a great deal of uncertainty and instability on both temporary workers and employers,” Immigration Minister John McCallum said in a release. “We had the sense that it was an unnecessary burden on applicants and employers, and also on officers who process applications.”

The government last Tuesday also said it would maintain a cap on the proportion of low-wage TFWs that can be employed at a given worksite at 20 per cent for employers who have used the TFW program since before June 20, 2014, and at 10 per cent for employers who accessed the program after that date.

An exemption on the cap for “seasonal” industries seeking TFWs for up to 180 days during the 2017 calendar year will be extended, however, until Dec. 31, 2017.

The government also said it will require low-wage employers, where appropriate, to first advertise to more than one and up to four “under-represented” groups in the workforce, including youth, persons with disabilities, Indigenous people and newcomers.

That requirement, which the government said is meant to help ensure that Canadians have first access to available job opportunities, isn’t yet in effect but employers “will be advised” when it does.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) last Wednesday hailed the end of the “four-in, four-out” rule, noting it had “expressed concern that this rule has created unnecessary hardship for employers already struggling to fulfill their labour requirements” and that it “limited opportunities for temporary foreign workers to attain permanent residency.”

The CFA said it “continues to see increased pathways to permanent residency as a vital component of any long-term strategy to reduce Canadian agriculture’s labour shortages.”

“Farmers invested heavily in the training of these workers, only to lose them” to the cumulative duration rule, Manitoba’s Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) said in a separate release.

“This will help many farm operations in Manitoba, but especially the beekeepers who were hit hardest by this rule,” KAP president Dan Mazier said.

The CFA said it also “looks forward to obtaining more details” of the planned requirement for employers to advertise job opportunities to under-represented groups.

“Connecting with these communities is a priority for the industry and CFA is working with other stakeholders to address current barriers that confront those interested in working in the sector.”

KAP’s Mazier reiterated that TFWs, in agriculture’s case, take jobs Canadians aren’t able to fill, noting the “limited to non-existent labour pool” in Canada’s rural areas.

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, concurred in a separate release Wednesday, saying “the artificial caps on the percentage of foreign labour may make sense in parts of Canada, but for smaller businesses in rural and remote parts of Canada, there are few other options.”

The CFIB, he said, is “thrilled to hear the government is looking to ‘further develop pathways’ to permanent residency,” noting “small firms I speak to want the ‘temporary’ taken out of the foreign worker program.”

The CFIB noted it has previously recommended setting up an “Introduction to Canada” visa that would start foreign workers on a pathway to permanent residency. — AGCanada.com Network

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