Report on temporary foreign workers reflects balance, addresses several concerns of farmers

OTTAWA, September 22, 2016 — The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) says the recommendations put forward this week by the House of Commons human resources committee in their report on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program reflects a balanced approach that would ensure strong worker protections and lead to positive program changes for producers. Improvements to this program are urgently needed as farmers face critical labour shortages in their businesses.

“We feel the report addresses the primary concerns of our members, such as the call for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to review the current pathways to permanent residency, which currently precludes most farm workers from achieving permanent residency. Many workers from abroad have become valued members of communities across Canada, and they have developed critical skills that position them for long and fulfilling careers in agriculture,” said Ron Bonnett, CFA President. “These workers are vital to our industry and we are eager to work with the government to ensure that they can work in Canada permanently.”

The committee also proposed reforms to the cumulative duration limit, which limits temporary foreign workers to 48 months of working in Canada before being barred from re-entry for 48 subsequent months. This is a key concern for farm groups, and CFA stresses the urgency of this issue. The regulation has forced a number of workers to leave Canada — and the communities they have become a part of — while in some instances preventing farm businesses from transitioning these valued workers into permanent employees.

As well, CFA is pleased to see that the report recommends improved labour market information, aligned education and training resources, and harmonized immigration programs. This reflects the multi-faceted approach needed to address the sector’s chronic labour shortage.

“Members of CFA also acknowledge that the committee recommends steps to improve compliance and increase inspections. We strongly support calls for a rigourous compliance regime. CFA reiterates that the program requires clearly enforced rules and regulations,” said Bonnett. “We are pleased that the report calls for government to collaborate with stakeholders in reviewing these mechanisms, to ensure that changes don’t lead to undue disruptions for affected businesses. CFA looks forward to working closely with government to ensure the administrative requirements are as streamlined as possible.”

CFA anticipates more discussion this fall and strongly encourages the government to take immediate action on the committee’s recommendations, as further delays will exacerbate challenges stemming from the severe shortage of farm workers in Canada.

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