Canada’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is well underway. In February 2022, Canada added 337,000 jobs, bringing the unemployment rate to 5.5%—the lowest since the start of the pandemic. In fact, Canada’s economic recovery is outpacing the ability of many employers to find workers, particularly in Quebec. To support Canada’s continued economic growth, the Government of Canada is focused on building a strong, resilient workforce in all sectors through the implementation of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program Quebec Pilot Project, and the introduction of province-restricted open work permits for foreign nationals selected for permanent residence by Quebec.
Today, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Sean Fraser, announced a planned implementation of the next phase of the pilot project—the inclusion of National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill level C occupations (known as intermediate-skilled work) into the Traitement Simplifié. This facilitated process will allow for additional flexibilities for Quebec employers under the TFW Program to address their labour needs. Previously, the Traitement Simplifié included only higher skilled occupations. This measure will be implemented on May 24, 2022, finalizing the implementation of Traitement Simplifié in Quebec.
The introduction of lower-skilled occupations into the Traitement Simplifié will not affect the already established worker protections for those currently under the Program. In addition, these worker protections will now also apply to all low-wage positions — meaning those with wages below the Quebec median wage, applying under Traitement Simplifié, no matter the skill level (0, A, B or C) — in order to further strengthen the protection of TFWs’ rights in Quebec.
Specifically, with regard to worker protections, employers are required to:
- ensure that an employment contract is signed by both the employer and the TFW;
- pay for the round-trip transportation costs for TFWs to arrive at their work location in Canada at the beginning of their work period, and to return to their country of residence at the end of their work period;
- provide or ensure that suitable and affordable housing is available for the TFWs they hire; and
- ensure that the TFWs being hired in low-wage positions are covered by private or provincial/territorial health insurance from the first day they arrive in Canada. If provincial or territorial health care cannot be provided, then employers must pay for the equivalent private health insurance until the TFWs become eligible for the provincial/territorial plan.
The pilot project for employers in Quebec will run until December 31, 2023. The Government of Canada will continue to monitor the outcomes of this pilot project to help evaluate future decisions.
In addition, Canada will move forward with issuing work permits to foreign nationals selected for permanent residence by Quebec. Once implemented, foreign nationals will be able to apply for an open work permit that will allow them to work for nearly any employer in Quebec before submitting their application for permanent residence to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
These new measures will allow future permanent residents to move to Quebec right away and begin working and settling into their new home. With a province-restricted open work permit, newcomers will have the flexibility to move quickly between positions in Quebec to grow their careers and gain new work experiences.
“Our government is continuing to renew and modernize the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to ensure that it meets the changing needs of our workforce. This pilot program is an example of how strong collaboration can help us find innovative solutions to address labour shortages, and build the strong, skilled workforce Quebec and Canada need to support our growing economy.”
– Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough
“As Canada continues to grow its economy and recover from the pandemic, addressing our labour market needs is a top priority. We recognize the significant labour shortages that many sectors are facing in Quebec, and these new measures will have a positive impact on the workers, employers and communities that need them.”
– Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Sean Fraser
“If this is not delivering the goods to support Québec employers and the economy, I don’t know what is! We have been working relentlessly to find innovative solutions to address the workforce shortage problem in Québec and across the country. These measures are how we are going to get it done.”
– Minister of Canadian Heritage and Quebec Lieutenant, Pablo Rodriguez
- In Quebec, the unemployment rate ended the year at 4.6% and remained near the pre-pandemic low of February 2020.
- In July 2021, the Government of Canada proposed regulations to improve protection of temporary foreign workers, which were pre-published in the Canada Gazette, Part I. Final publication in the Canada Gazette, Part II is anticipated later this summer.
- On August 6, 2021, the Government of Canada announced an agreement with the Government of Quebec that allowed for the introduction of new flexibilities for Quebec employers under the TFW Program. The collaborative initiative between the Government of Canada, the Government of Quebec and Quebec labour market partners allowed Quebec employers to increase the maximum proportion of TFWs hired in low-wage positions for employers in specific sectors, effective January 10, 2022. It also allowed greater flexibilities to existing advertising and recruitment requirements for specific in-demand occupations, effective December 6, 2021.
- The Government of Canada continues to rebuild the TFW compliance regime and has strengthened the inspection process by:
- enhancing inspection tools and mandatory training;
- raising employers’ awareness of their obligations under the TFW Program’s conditions; and
- expanding work with consulates to identify concerns that need immediate attention.
- In August 2021, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada extended the eligibility for bridging open work permits to include foreign nationals who were already working temporarily in Quebec and who had submitted an application for permanent residence as a Quebec skilled worker. This allowed workers to continue pursuing their careers while waiting for their permanent residence application to be finalized.
- To qualify for a province-restricted open work permit, a foreign national must:
- be living outside of Quebec;
- hold a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ) that proves they have been selected for permanent residence by Quebec; and
- submit a complete application for a work permit, including applicable fees.