Do Canadians know how increasing numbers of temporary foreign workers is changing immigration?

February 2, 2012

During the fall of 2011 the Conservative government announced and implemented a number of dramatic changes to the Canadian immigration system, including attempts to speed-up the processing of immigration applications, placing a greater focus on attracting economic immigrants, opening new categories of immigration for foreign students, and creating a new "super-visa" for immigrants' parents and grandparents. Pundits and critics have filled much newsprint weighing-in on these changes. However, few have commented on the rapid increases in the number of temporary foreign workers coming to the country. This has meant that the issue has largely been out of the public eye.

Most Canadians are unaware that the number of temporary foreign workers is increasing rapidly. These are people who migrate to Canada for work on a temporary visa and who, unlike other immigrants and refugees, do not have the rights of permanent residents or citizens. Statistics on temporary foreign workers vary widely depending on how they are compiled. This is because of the broad range of workers that fall under the category ranging from university professors or other professionals with specialized expertise hired from abroad, to athletes and performing artists, to low-wage service workers. In all cases, temporary workers are admitted on the condition that their employment does not impede that of Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

As confusing as the statistics can be, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada's 2010 Facts and Figures, in 1986 120,074 temporary foreign workers were in the country, by the year 2000 this increased to 177,781 and by 2010 the number increased to 432,682. That is a 140 percent increase during the 2000s alone. Of those counted in 2010 about a quarter of temporary foreign workers, 116,166, were classified as "initial" entrants, presumably coming to the country for the first time. To put that number into perspective, according to the same source, this is equivalent to over 40 percent of the 280,681 immigrants Canada admitted in the same year but these migrants will not receive permanent residence status or citizenship [...]

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