Politics
BC miner controversy sparks probe of temporary foreign work program

Federal Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley greets employees at the MaRs in Toronto on Thursday, 08, 2012.

Credits: Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency

KRISTY KIRKUP | QMI AGENCY

OTTAWA - The government announced it will review how the Temporary Foreign Work Program operates after it approved permits for a B.C. mining company to hire Chinese miners even though Canadians are supposed to get first dibs on jobs.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada is already investigating why the work permits were granted to 201 mine workers at HD Mining International Ltd., located west of Grand Prairie, Alta.

"We are not satisfied that sufficient efforts were made to recruit or train Canadians interested in these jobs," HRSDC Minister Diane Finley said.

Employers who want to hire temporary foreign workers must apply for a "labour market opinion" from

Service Canada that assesses "the impact the foreign worker would have on Canada's labour market."

"Concerns have come to light, subsequent to these labour market opinions being approved for that particular mine, that Mandarin was listed as a work requirement," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in an October interview with QMI Agency. "I understand HRSDC is taking a look at that to see if that was a valid work requirement."

The NDP, however, wants to see an "immediate suspension" of these permits and has demanded a full investigation to see if Canadian workers were given an opportunity to apply for the positions at the B.C. mine.

NDP immigration critic Jinny Sims also worries about how Canada's temporary foreign worker system operates overall and says a review is "long overdue."

"Companies used to have to search for six months in Canada before they could go look for overseas workers. And now...it is just six days before being allowed to hire workers from overseas.... The system is being abused," she said.

Sims also criticizes the government for allowing temporary foreign workers to be paid 15% less than other employees.

"They're helping their business friends to bring in cheap labour," Sims said. "That also suppresses the wages for Canadians here."

The Canadian Labour Congress and other unions have also hammered the feds for approving the work permits, saying Canadian workers need long-term employment.

The employment standards arm of the B.C. Ministry of Jobs and Tourism announced on Oct. 19 it would investigate HD Mining.

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