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CBC asks Alex Stojicevic for his take on Foreign Worker Program abuses

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program has been in the media spotlight repeatedly over the past year, with the HD Mining story and, now, the McDonald’s scandal both making headlines on CBC news.

As one of B.C.’s trusted  and oft-quoted authorities on Canadian immigration laws, Vancouver immigration lawyer Alex Stojicevic  gave CBC his take on the uses and supposed abuses of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in an April 7 interview.

Alex, of the boutique law office Maynard Kischer Stojicevic, explains that companies that chose to use foreign workers often have a significant unmet need, as the steps getting approval for these workers are often time-consuming and expensive.

“It’s not an easy process.  You have to advertise on three different sources, including the national job bank or the BC equivalent, you have to pay $275 for a labour market opinion…So there are costs, there’s advertising, there’s levels of compliance, there’s documents you have to keep in case they want to inspect them later,” Alex told CBC. “It’s a lot of work to go through. But if there are no workers, or if they simply can’ t attract people at what is considered to be the prevailing wage rate, sometimes employers don’t have a choice but to go to that level.”

While Alex points out that in his practice with MKS immigration law, and likely in the majority of situations, clients will use any easy fix from within Canada if one exists, the Vancouver immigration lawyer acknowledges that some companies break the rules.

“I think there are situations where people are using the Foreign Workers Program to bring in relatives that couldn’t qualify otherwise, or if they can keep can keep people who are vulnerable and say they’ll pay them one wage and maybe not pay them that wage. There are those types of abuses definitely,” says Alex.

As for the assertion that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program takes jobs away from Canadians, Alex says that’s not what the program is intended to do, and so many more measures being put in place to stop this from happening.

“If you’re in a situation where there’s obviously Canadians who say, ‘hey, I’m available. Why wasn’t I called in?’, that can cause the government to take a second look at an application. The government has put in more measures to investigate and follow up with those types of complaints,” says Alex. “But, the whole idea behind this program is that it’s designed to fill in shortages or enhance the labour market in some way by bringing in new skills or skills that aren’t available. If you take a job away from a Canadian, but you fill it with someone who has new skills they can train other Canadians with, you can say there’s a benefit to Canada.”