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Minister’s Press Release Regarding Spousal Employment

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OTTAWA, September 30, 1998 – Lucienne Robillard, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Pierre S. Pettigrew, Minister of Human Resources Development, and John Manley, Minister of Industry, today announced a pilot project that will help Canada gain a competitive advantage in attracting highly skilled foreign workers for temporary assignments.

Under this pilot project, spouses accompanying temporary foreign workers coming to Canada for jobs in certain high-skill occupations in key high-growth sectors of the economy will be permitted to work if they wish.

This national pilot project will be open to foreign workers in high-skill occupations who are admitted to Canada for at least six months.

The ministers emphasized that the federal government recognizes the reality of the modern two-career family and they want labour market and immigration policy to reflect this reality. Canada will be a more attractive place to work for highly skilled workers and senior executives from other countries. In addition, the removal of the existing impediment to the recruitment of skilled workers will constitute one more step in the government’s effort to make Canada a strong destination for foreign investment.

“This pilot project will help Canada attract people who can help fuel the economic growth we need to create jobs for Canadians,” said Minister Robillard. “People with advanced skills in information technology, engineering and management are in demand around the world. If they know that Canada welcomes their spouses too, they may be more receptive to Canadian employers’ efforts to recruit them.”

The decision to launch this pilot project followed several recommendations. In its report entitled Not Just Numbers, commissioned by Minister Robillard and released this past January, the Legislative Review Advisory Group noted that it had “often heard that Canada should review its restrictive position on work rights for the spouses of foreign workers to make it easier for employers to attract workers with much-needed skills.” The value to employers of enabling spouses of temporary workers to seek employment was noted by the Groupe de travail sur la relance de Montreal in 1996.

“We have listened to many of Canada’s leading employers and we have worked closely with other government departments to make this pilot possible,” Minister Pettigrew stated. “We continue to take innovative steps to give Canada the strongest labour market possible. It is part of our commitment to a responsive and flexible federal system.”

Minister Manley noted that “employers around the world are searching for workers with the skills necessary to succeed in a knowledge-based economy. This initiative will make Canada a more attractive choice for highly trained individuals, and for companies who wish to invest and create jobs in a dynamic and competitive business environment.”

The one-year pilot is slated to begin on October 15, 1998. Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Human Resources Development Canada and Industry Canada will participate in the evaluation of the pilot’s ability to attract key personnel and its impact on the Canadian labour market.

Additional Information:

BACKGROUNDER

PILOT PROJECT TO ISSUE EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATIONS TO SPOUSES OF HIGHLY SKILLED TEMPORARY WORKERS

The Pilot Project

A national pilot project for the spouses of temporary foreign workers will be launched on October 15, 1998. Under this pilot project, the spouses of workers coming to Canada for jobs in certain high skill occupations in key high growth sectors of the economy will be able to work here more easily and have to undergo fewer administrative processes. The pilot will enable the spouses of certain key foreign workers to accept employment through a facilitated validation process.

This pilot project will assess the extent to which it improves the ability of Canadian employers to attract key personnel and its impact on the Canadian labour market.

The pilot will be open to the spouses of foreign workers in the two highly skilled occupational categories described in the National Occupational Classification System and who hold employment authorizations valid for at least six months. The workers must also be filling highly skilled jobs that normally require a university degree as defined in the National Occupational Classification System (a classification system used by governments and researchers to characterize occupations in Canada). The pilot will cover key occupations that have been identified as being of strategic importance to economic activity. This approach is in keeping with the focus on targeted growth sectors described in the government of Canada’s most recent Speech from the Throne. It has also been identified by the province of Quebec as an important tool in its efforts to address the unique economic challenges of that province and of the greater Montreal area in particular.

How the Pilot Will Work

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) issues temporary employment authorizations for foreign workers to permit them to work in Canada. Authorizations are normally issued following a labour market assessment by Human Resources Development Canada certifying that no Canadians are available to fill the jobs. They are also issued to accommodate international agreements where reciprocal opportunities exist for Canadians or where significant employment benefits to Canada will result. Currently, there is no automatic right to work extended to the spouse of a foreign worker, although spouses can apply and will be authorized if they qualify in their own right.

This issue has been ongoing for quite some time; employers have sought a more accommodating approach for the spouses of highly skilled workers. For example, in 1996, the Groupe de travail sur la relance de Montr閍l identified this as a barrier to attracting highly skilled researchers and business executives to assignments in Montreal. It recommended that the spouses of “strategic workers” be allowed to work without restriction during the family’s stay in Montreal. More recently, in its January 1998 report, Not Just Numbers, the Legislative Review Advisory Group noted that “current restrictions are outdated and potentially counter-productive since they lead to difficulties in obtaining and retaining key personnel.” The Group recommended that “Immigration and Citizenship legislation should allow family members of foreign workers to work in Canada.”

The Scale of the Pilot

Of the approximately 170,000 foreign workers issued employment authorizations by Citizenship and Immigration Canada in 1997, only 10,000 would have qualified under the pilot.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The project will be monitored and evaluated to determine how successfully it attracts skilled workers for temporary assignments in Canada. The impact of the pilot on the Canadian labour market will also be tracked and assessed.

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