If only it had been an April Fools’ Joke

Thousands of Temporary Foreign Workers Lose their Status in Canada

April 2015

April 1st of each year marks the tradition of playing pranks on one’s friends and family.   Whether it’s toothpaste instead of icing in the kids’ cookies, toilet paper stuffed in shoes to make them seem too small, or the mysterious disappearance of all the staples from the office staplers, these pranks will leave you both annoyed and amused at the same time.

This year, it seemed like the Canadian government was attempting to be the prankster; unfortunately, it wasn’t a joke.


Four years ago, the government instituted a ‘cap’ on the number of years a temporary foreign worker could work in Canada.  This meant that on April 1, 2015 thousands of affected workers lost their right to work in Canada. 

It doesn’t mean that the work they were doing suddenly disappeared.  If their employer could still prove that labour shortages required the hiring of a temporary foreign worker, then they could still be approved to hire from outside Canada.  It’s just that the employer would now have to fire the worker who’d been with them for four years, while attempting to recruit someone new.

The workers, many of whom had bought homes and had children who are Canadian citizens, had to give it all up and leave.

Or not.  Law professor Audrey Macklin wrote in her article And just like that, you’re an illegal immigrant that many of these workers will not go back:

They will remain living and working in Canada without legal status. How can we know this for sure? Because that is what has happened, from the mid-1940s to the present, in every country in the world that has run a mass guest-worker regime.

In response to the media furor over the issue, on April 1st the Canadian government released the following statement:

We will not tolerate people going ‘underground.’ Flouting our immigration laws is not an option, and we will deal with offenders swiftly and fairly.

The solution to all of this, of course, is to make it possible for these temporary foreign workers to apply for permanent residency.  But currently there is no pathway at the federal level for lower skilled workers to apply.  The new Express Entry program is only for skilled tradespeople or those with skilled work experience (National Occupation Classification level “B” or higher).  Many of these workers have only “C” or “D” level experience.

Social problems are inevitable in countries with large numbers of ‘illegal immigrants’, as Professor Macklin describes in her article.  We need to come up with a better way, before we begin seeing those problems here in Canada.