March 31, 2014 – The Government of Canada’s budget implementation bill, tabled March 28th, includes provisions that will permit the government to levy fines against employers found to be abusing the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). The TFWP allows employers to apply for “Labour Market Opinions”, permitting them to hire foreign employees if they can demonstrate a lack of local qualified labour to fill jobs. The program was recently revamped after a public outcry over perceived abuses that included allegations of employers using the program to access cheaper foreign labour and, in one case, allegations that laid-off Canadian employees were training their own foreign replacements. The Employment Minister would be authorized to impose fines on companies that make false declarations about their use of foreign labour or replace Canadian workers with foreign workers. The fines are expected to be in force by 2015.
It should be noted that Administrative Monetary Penalties are a commonly used enforcement tool – in everything from the Securities Act to the Government’s new Anti-Spam legislation – that permits a regulatory authority to impose administrative fines in the event of a breach, rather seek to impose criminal fines through Federal Court. In addition to the proposed fines, employers found to be abusing the terms of any Labour Market Opinion can already be prohibited from hiring foreign labour for up to two years, and have their names included on a public, government run list identifying non-compliant companies.