The Kenneth Mark Drain Chair in Ethics at Trent University

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My name is Kate, and I'm a Temporary Foreign Worker

My fellow taxpayers of Canada,

Let us, by all means, publicly oppose the move by the Royal Bank of Canada to fire its employees and outsource their jobs in order to further increase the already enormous profits that RBC enjoys.  But let us not perpetuate misunderstandings about Temporary Foreign Workers.  

It is not the case that everyone with this status has necessarily taken a job that a Canadian might have had.  For example, when I accepted a job at Trent University, my spouse accompanied me; he is designated as a TFW entirely because we do not yet have Permanent Residence status, even though he brought his telecommuter job with him from the U.S.A. – a job he now pays income taxes to Canada for bringing here.  He has added to the revenue of Canada. (You’re welcome.)

Contrary to what CTV says, it is not the case that “federally-approved LMO visas…are only to be issued when it can be demonstrated Canadians do not want the jobs the foreign workers are coming to do.”  Wanting is not the issue.  According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), “The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) allows Canadian employers to hire foreign nationals to fill temporary labour and skill shortages when qualified Canadian citizens or permanent residents are not available.”  Many want jobs, but not everyone with a desire for a job is qualified for every job.  I realize that in the case of the RBC employees, they were both qualified and experienced.  Firing them was wrong. But this should not result in re-describing the TFW program.

Last, I would suggest that many of the Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada applied to be TFWs here because we hope to immigrate and to become Canadians.  We don’t all plan to be either temporary or forever “foreign.”  The stories of TFWs are more complex than that, and include applicants for TFW status so that we can justifiably come to Canada and apply for Permanent Residence. Again, the RBC cash-grabbing attempt to outsource jobs does not reflect this, I realize.  But the articles and op-eds about TFWs generally should take into account how many of us aspire to be part of Canada, to contribute, to stay.   As the CIC points out, "In 2011, more than 29,000 temporary foreign workers made the transition to permanent status."  Those 29,000 new residents were once just TFWs like us.

I thought this was widely known.  So it was a surprise to me and my family to read this statement on the part of RBC CEO Gord Nixon: "Firstly, RBC has not and does not hire any temporary foreign workers.”  Before we moved here, my spouse and I chose RBC to be our bank.  RBC was very happy to have our business, to charge us fees, to be the repository of our savings, and to occasionally attempt to sell us even more products than we wanted. We have earned incomes, paid taxes, and frequented businesses in our town and the surrounding area with our RBC accounts.  We moved here with every intention of applying to become Permanent Residents.  In fact, our applications to be Permanent Residents are pending as I write this.  So it is revelatory to me that if my husband actually applied to work for RBC, they would not consider his application, and would not even seek a Labour Market Opinion if he was the most qualified applicant in the world.  I suppose it is their right to take our business and announce our undesirability at the same time.  I hope, however, that their perceptions of TFWs are not widely shared.

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