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Temporary Moratorium on Certain Work Permit Issuances

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The Minister of Employment and Social Development, Jason Kenney, recently announced that a temporary moratorium has been placed on the issuance of Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) to employers seeking to hire workers in the food service industry.

The decision to institute a moratorium came as the result of recent widespread allegations of fraud in the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program. Most recently, McDonald’s Canada announced that it would be suspending recruitment of temporary foreign workers in response to a government investigation.

The Decision

Effective April 25, 2014, LMOs will no longer be processed for a wide range of occupations. The occupations largely fall within the fields of food service and hospitality. In order to be ineligible for an LMO, the intended employee must fall under one of the following occupations and intend to work in the food service industry. The occupations are as follows:

Minister Kenney has expressed that the moratorium will remain in place at least until the department that oversees foreign workers, Employment and Skills Development Canada (ESDC), is able to finish an investigation into alleged abuses.

In recent months, a number of public allegations have been levied against certain Canadian employers in the food service industry. These employers have been accused of various offenses, such as replacing Canadian workers with temporary foreign workers, hiring abroad instead of within Canada, and mistreating foreign workers in their employ.

One story that made national headlines centered on a restaurant in Saskatchewan. A long-time waitress claimed that she and many of her fellow employees were let go after years of service, while their foreign colleagues retained their jobs. This accusation prompted a special investigation from ESDC, and served to highlight challenges that Canada’s temporary work program is facing throughout the country.

“Abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker program will not be tolerated,” said Minister Kenney. “Our government will continue to pursue significant reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker program to ensure that employers make greater efforts to recruit and train Canadians and that it is only used as a last and limited resort when Canadians are not available.”

Controversy over the Moratorium

Some employers and provincial officials have already spoken out against the temporary moratorium. Many claim that Canada’s food industry, which relies heavily on foreign workers, will be unfairly affected by the ban.

Some restaurant managers have expressed difficulty in finding the workers they need within Canada. Amine Kanai, the manager of a sushi restaurant in Calgary, is one such manager. His restaurant has been forced to shut down one day a week because he is unable to bring qualified employees from abroad.

Advice for Applicants

While ESDC has not indicated when the moratorium will be lifted, it has stated that this measure is intended to be temporary.

“The Canadian government is trying to find the delicate balance between growing its economy and protecting its citizens and permanent residents,” said Attorney David Cohen. “Unfortunately, it seems that bringing the Temporary Foreign Worker program in line has required drastic measures to be taken.”

Employers affected by the moratorium have little choice but to wait to hear what ESDC plans to do next. At present, it is unknown whether the department’s investigation will result in new measures or requirements being placed on the temporary foreign worker program.

“The past several months have seen the work permit application process become more stringent and complex,” said Attorney Cohen. “More than ever, Canadian employers looking to bring in workers from abroad would be well served to seek help in navigating this intricate process.”

If you are a Canadian employer looking to hire abroad, or a foreign worker looking to come to Canada, please contact Campbell Cohen today to determine your eligibility.