Government of Canada responds to the Auditor General’s Report on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

December 9, 2021              Gatineau, Quebec              Employment and Social Development Canada

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, today issued the following statement regarding the audit of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG):

“The health and safety of temporary foreign workers is of the utmost importance to me, my colleagues, and the Government of Canada. Like every worker in Canada, they deserve to be safe in their workplaces.

As the pandemic hit, thousands of temporary foreign workers were scheduled to arrive in Canada. The Government acted quickly to keep workers safe and food on Canadians’ tables. We immediately strengthened conditions for the program and brought in even stronger penalties for failing to comply. We continued to listen and adapt ahead of the 2022 season, investing in migrant worker organizations, working closely with partners at home and abroad, and doubling the number of inspectors.

All efforts were guided with the health and safety of Canadians and temporary foreign workers top of mind. The Auditor General’s report clearly outlines that despite these efforts, more must be done ahead of the upcoming season. At the same time, the pandemic has further highlighted the systemic challenges and inherent inequities that exist within the TFW program that need to be addressed – and that work is ongoing.

ESDC is rebuilding the TFW compliance regime, and the Auditor General’s recommendations, which we accept, will guide this work. We have already taken steps to improve the quality and timeliness of our inspections, reduce backlogs, and increase resources, and we are now better able to support our inspection staff. While these improvements are important, we know more work is required.

To that end, I have asked that my deputy minister commit to the following:

  • Ensure all staff responsible for inspections have received supplementary training by no later than March 2022;
  • Implement renewed guidance to ensure that if ever a worker’s health and safety is at risk, necessary action is taken within 24 hours and no later than 48 hours, including the notification of appropriate stakeholders, authorities and jurisdictions;
  • Develop a plan to target higher risk areas to reduce backlogs and ensure inspections are timely; and
  • Reach a rate of 80% of inspection files without substantive errors by March 2022, and reach 90% by no later than September 2022.

As we have done throughout the pandemic, I will be working closely with provinces, territories, partner countries and migrant worker organizations to ensure this work remains on track.

Longer-term, we know that workers deserve to be better protected in their living conditions. That is why last week, I released a report that will inform our work with provinces, territories and key stakeholders to develop minimum requirements for employer-provided accommodations in 2022. While provinces and territories generally have jurisdiction over the development of accommodation-related rules and regulations, including housing standards, working together, we can and must make needed improvements.

I want to thank the Auditor General and her Office for its report and recommendations, which will guide the work ahead.”

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