Foreign labor is a highly attractive option against a backdrop of trucking labor shortages. But navigating international recruiting efforts is no easy task – particularly in Quebec, where provincial and federal governments share responsibility for immigration.
The federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program allows foreign workers to be hired when a qualified Canadian worker is not available. This requires employers or a third party to complete a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and meet related conditions and commitments.
Quebec, meanwhile, will also require a Request for Labor Market Impact Study — the Demande d’etude d’impact sur le marche du travail (EIMT) – carried out jointly by Service Canada and the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI).
Both applications must be submitted simultaneously, speakers noted during the Quebec Trucking Association’s International Recruiting Breakfast.
But even then, businesses that help recruit international drivers are reporting situations where candidates are approved by MIFI but rejected at a federal level, says Josyanne Pierrat, the association’s director of compliance and legal affairs.
“The Gagnon-Tremblay/McDougall agreement says that Quebec can choose its candidates, but this is not respected by the federal government in several cases,” she says. “We have notified Minister of Immigration, Francisation and Integration Christine Fréchette of this situation. She is aware of the problem.”
Fleet managers also need to be aware of specific program requirements when looking to hire foreign workers.
A job’s salary, for example, will determine whether a fleet needs to apply for an LMIA under a high- or low-wage stream. “Truckers can be in either stream. To determine which, we use the median wage, which in Quebec is $25 an hour,” explained Marie Gareau, a senior development officer – programs at Service Canada.
“Wages in trucking can be based on an hourly rate, load, mileage, or activity,” added Karina Crespo, a Service Canada project advisor. “Whatever method you use, it will be converted to an hourly rate for inspection purposes. We suggest you attach an appendix to the form in which you clearly explain the calculation method you use to arrive at this wage.”
Those who employ low-wage workers must cover the cost of transportation to and from the job, take out private insurance, and help the worker find suitable, affordable housing.
Quebec and the federal government recently relaxed some of the requirements for truck drivers hired under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, though. Both governments can issue an EIMT under simplified processing rules.
“As of May 24, 2022, truckers are eligible for simplified processing. You must indicate that you are applying to Service Canada and MIFI for simplified processing,” Gareau said.
Protecting foreign workers
Not everything has been simplified.
Thirteen regulatory changes were enacted in September 2022 to better protect participating workers during a stay in Canada. For example, employers are now required to provide all temporary foreign workers with a document outlining their rights in Canada.
Previously, employers had to make reasonable efforts to provide foreign workers with a violence-free workplace. The definition has been expanded to include employer reprisals.
In addition, an amendment prohibits employers from collecting or recovering recruitment-related fees. “It’s also important to say that foreign workers have the same rights as Canadian permanent residents, and that the employer has responsibilities when hiring a worker,” Gareau said.
“If you do business with immigration consultants, you should know that Quebec regulates the practice of consultants, but also that there are regulations governing personnel placement agencies and temporary foreign worker recruitment agencies that require you to work with [approved] agents,” said Veronique Jannard, a MIFI advisor.
Such agencies must hold a valid permit issued by Quebec’s Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST), while employers need to inform the same agency that the temporary foreign worker is hired.
“The employer or recruitment agency may not charge the worker any recruitment fees other than those required by the program,” Jannard said. “They may not, for example, charge fees to the foreign recruitment agency, or fees for processing the EIMT with both governments.”
Nor can the employer or recruiting agency require the temporary foreign worker to hand over documents or personal property. “We’ve seen newspaper articles in Ontario reporting that an employer had kept the worker’s passport. That’s illegal,” she said.
Workers available now
Some of the available foreign workers are already in Canada, said Antoine Hamel of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
“There are many skilled foreign workers, right here at home, who have work authorizations or open work permits that allow them to work for any employer.”
Since Nov. 16, foreign students have been able to work more than 20 hours a week without a work permit. “You can go to campuses and recruit. These people don’t need a work permit. They can work an unlimited number of hours, whereas before there was a strict 20-hour cap,” he said.
But Jannard offers a warning: “If you hire a student full time, their studies are no longer their main occupation. You won’t be doing that student any favors because they may be denied their CAQ [Quebec Acceptance Certificate].”
“If there’s one message I’d like to reinforce, it’s that IRCC and MIFI offer a host of services to businesses. We’re here to help you understand the immigration process and provide guidance,” Hamel said.
The Quebec Trucking Association has also asked MIFI to set up a working group to look at specific issues around the trucking industry’s foreign workforce.
“We know the process is long, and we know there’s a back-and-forth of questions between the agent evaluating the file and the carrier because there’s a lack of understanding of our industry. For example, many truckers are paid by the mile and not by the hour, the method used to determine the median wage,” Pierrat says.
Among the issues that need to be clarified is implied status – such as the right to remain in Canada and continue working while a work permit, which expired after a related renewal application was submitted, is reviewed.
“The problem is that a trucker who was going to the United States can’t get out until his application is approved. He has to be relocated on local haulage or haulage within Canada only,” Pierrat said.
The association also wants truck drivers to be eligible for permanent residence under the Quebec Experience Program.
- This is a translated version of a French article that appeared at www.transportroutier.ca
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