Yukon tweaks foreign worker program

It just got easier to hire foreign workers in the Yukon. Changes to the Yukon Nominee Program were discussed over a hot breakfast of pancakes, eggs and sausage at the High Country Inn on Wednesday morning.

It just got easier to hire foreign workers in the Yukon.

Changes to the Yukon Nominee Program were discussed over a hot breakfast of pancakes, eggs and sausage at the High Country Inn on Wednesday morning.

The Department of Education, which runs the program and paid for the pancakes, explained some of these changes to a room packed with members of the Whitehorse business community.

The application form will now be available to fill out online.

There will be a more formalized plan to settle new workers and provide help with accommodation, language training and financial support.

And the government will get rid of a requirement that workers prove they have $10,000 in liquid assets before coming to the Yukon.

Originally, this money was meant to ensure that immigrants could support themselves while making the transition to their life in Canada.

If they didn’t have this money (and the vast majority of workers did not), an affidavit of support, often from a friend or family member, was deemed adequate.

But Immigration Canada wanted to get rid of that affidavit of support.

They wanted the businesses to take on more of the responsibility.

The new nominee regime will do just that, replacing the affidavit with a settlement and retention plan.

The program will also now require what it’s calling a guaranteed employment offer.

The offer assesses the job and ensures that wages are within industry norms and meet Statistics Canada’s low-income cutoffs.

This makes sure the foreign worker will be living above the poverty line.

“I think the Department of Education is certainly going the right way in streamlining the program and going online,” said Doug Terry, owner of the two Tim Hortons in Whitehorse.

“Looking for the (guaranteed employment offer) versus the required funds is also a positive step because most nominees coming over, especially in the critical impact workers, certainly can’t come up with $10,000,” he said.

“So I think it’s a really positive step and really helps out the businesses in the Yukon because that has been a bit of a roadblock in the past.”

Tim Hortons employs about 50 foreign workers.

More than a dozen of these workers are currently in the Yukon Nominee Program, and the restaurant is in the process of applying for more.

Many of the foreign workers at Tim Hortons were past nominees, who have become permanent residents and have decided to continue working at the chain.

“Without the Yukon Nominee Program I question whether or not a lot of the businesses would be in business in town.”

The Yukon Nominee Program differs from the federal temporary foreign worker program in that workers are expected to stick around and become permanent residents, instead of being sent home once their work term is done.

Problems have occurred down south with workers being mistreated because of their reliance on employers.

If the workers complain, they risk losing their jobs and being sent home.

It’s unclear whether getting rid of the $10,000 requirement and placing so much more responsibility on businesses will increase the risk of abuse for workers in the Yukon program.

“That’s one of the things that we’ve always been aware of and we’ve tried to put regulations in place so that doesn’t happen,” said immigration co-ordinator Marjorie Copp.

“We’re asking questions in the documents that the employer has to provide that will help prevent mistreatment of workers. And we also do monitors as well.”

The program will not come into effect until consultations have been completed in Watson Lake and Dawson City.

These consultations are scheduled for early in the new year.

The Yukon government is also still working on a new program to bring temporary foreign workers to the territory to fill seasonal jobs.

It hopes to have the program in place for next year’s spring hiring season.

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com

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