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OTTAWA – The Harper government is set to announce a review of the controversial Temporary Foreign Worker program following its investigation of the hiring of 201 Chinese nationals for a northeast B.C. coal project, The Vancouver Sun has learned.
The government is expected to indicate that it hasn’t been satisfied that sufficient effort has been made to hire and train Canadians to begin work at the proposed Murray River underground mine near Tumbler Ridge, which is at the environmental review stage.
Human Resources Development Minister Diane Finley will express particular concern with advertisements that suggested a Chinese language requirement for the jobs, according to a government source.
The government will also acknowledge that there are problems with the TFW program and is therefore conducting a review.
The controversy erupted last month after The Vancouver Sun disclosed that Ottawa had approved work permits for 201 Chinese workers to start a bulk sampling operation at the Murray River project, being operated by HD Mining International Ltd., a Chinese firm, and Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc., a company founded by China-born Vancouver businessman Naishun Liu.
That project is one of four being promoted by a consortium of Chinese companies working with Canadian Dehua. In total, according to an official, between 1,600 to just under 2,000 Chinese nationals could find full-time work in four projects in coming years.
However, the companies have to apply for permits from the federal government, and must show that the temporary workers aren’t taking jobs that could be filled by Canadians. They must also offer a competitive wage.
The Murray River project isn’t expected to be in full production until 2015, and the other projects are at less advanced stages. The companies have also committed to train Canadians to eventually replace the Chinese workers over a 10-year period.
Last week two unions filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court seeking an injunction to block the hiring of the 201 workers, pending judicial review to determine if Canadians could be found to fill the jobs.
The TFW program last year brought in an all-time high of 190,842 applicants – a 56-per-cent increase over the 122,368 total the year before the Conservatives took power in January of 2006.
Combined with foreigners already in Canada under the TFW program, there were 446,847 foreigners working in Canada at the end of 2011 under a “temporary” status – roughly double the 224,051 total for 2005.
That compares with the annual inflow of immigrants under the traditional family class, economic and refugee categories, which totaled 248,748 last year, down just over five per cent from the 262,242 total in 2005.
In B.C., the number of TFW permits totaled 46,378 in 2011, compared to 27,914 in 2005. B.C. is also getting a disproportionate share of TFWs, with B.C.’s share amounting to almost one-quarter of the Canadian total (24.3 per cent) for a province with just over 13 per cent of Canada’s population.
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