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How to support unemployed Canadians and also call for an increase in foreign workers

An article in the Winnipeg Free Press today cited a CIBC report that asks the question of whether Canada is bringing in foreign workers while ignoring unemployed Canadians.

The report from the CIBC finds that high-demand positions in Canada are remaining vacant while lower-skilled workers suffer from higher unemployment.

According to the CIBC, occupations in sectors such as health and science, natural resources extraction, plumbing, social work, psychology and in the clergy suffer from shortages. Meanwhile, clerical, manufacturing, teaching and food services sectors are seeing an oversupply of workers.

Because of this we have a situation where foreign workers are being brought into Canada to fill jobs while Canadians and Canadian permanent residents remain unemployed. Unless, Canada gets its act together, this will cause some strife.

Support for immigration programs to Canada will certainly decrease if domestic unemployment increases. While it is unrealistic to expect that every teacher can become a plumber or every cook can become a miner, if Canada does not to a better job of retraining our unemployed to fill vacant positions, the drain on the Canadian economy will be great.

If this causes anti-immigrant sentiment, governments may feel pressure to restrict immigration. This would cause Canada to continue to face shortages in occupations for which qualified Canadian applicants are limited.

The answer to this is to support programs that call for the retraining of unemployed Canadians. The first place to start would be to integrate the government’s system of tracking the unemployed with job vacancies companies are looking to fill through Canada’s temporary foreign worker program.

Under the temporary foreign worker program,  most employers must prove that there are no Canadians/permanent residents willing and able to take on the job in Canada before hiring a foreign worker. Employers are normally required to advertise vacant positions to see if anyone from the domestic workforce is available. If a Canadian/permanent resident misses the advertisement, they may miss the job opportunity.

What should happen it that unemployed Canadians be given the choice to have their resumes put in some depository that employers can access before hiring temporary foreign workers. As a result, instead of unemployed Canadian workers having to constantly scour job boards (which they should do anyway), Canadian employers could more easily find matches for their vacant positions. This would also identify the retraining opportunities that may be necessary.

Smart policies and an integrated government approach is what is necessary to reduce unemployment and maintain a smart immigration system.


About Reis Pagtakhan

Reis Pagtakhan is an immigration law partner with MLT Aikins LLP. His extensive experience includes assisting businesses obtain temporary entry to Canada and permanent residency for their executives, employees and contractors from all over the world. Reis has lectured on and written papers on immigration law for the Law Society of Manitoba, the Manitoba Bar Association, the Human Resources Management Association of Manitoba, the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, and the Community Legal Education Association of Manitoba. He has presented position papers before the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Immigration Department officials and Manitoba Labour and Immigration. He has written articles on immigration for the CBC, the Winnipeg Free Press, trade, industry and ethnic publications.


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