Nominee program helps immigrant workers call Canada home

Davy Joly loves his job. Not only does he get to play with computers all day, it has also helped him toward becoming a Canadian citizen.

Davy Joly loves his job.

Not only does he get to play with computers all day, it has also helped him toward becoming a Canadian citizen.

In June, after no more than a few years travelling and working in Canada, the Parisian computer technician received his permanent residency.

He was able to do this thanks to the Yukon Nominee Program.

The program helps expedite the immigration process in order to fill job openings throughout the territory.

It takes up to a year to get someone properly trained and certified for Joly’s job, said Meadia Solutions owner Trevor Mead-Robins.

“I didn’t have the time to train someone again,” he said.

“It was such a specialized area, I needed someone that already had experience.”

Mead-Robins advertised but wasn’t able to find anyone locally who was qualified or anyone nationally who wanted to move north.

Joly bought his first Mac from Mead-Robins and, with repeated visits to the store, the two became friends.

“He needed help – he needed a sponsor – and I needed an employee,” said Mead-Robins.

“But most importantly, he was really well suited for the job.”

Since the Yukon Nominee Program began in 2006 there have been more than 400 applications.

And, like Joly, these workers aren’t just serving up coffee at Tim Hortons or manning the tills at Canadian Tire.

As many as 145 employers have sponsored immigrant workers.

There has been some recent controversy surrounding foreign worker programs in Canada.

Last month it was revealed some workers were charged up to $10,000 by recruiters for jobs that never existed.

And those with jobs sometimes suffer abuse, poor working conditions and even poorer accommodations.

Last week, Auditor General Sheila Fraser highlighted the program’s many problems in her fall report.

“There is no systematic follow-up to verify that employers have complied with the terms and conditions (such as wages and accommodations) under which the work permits were issued,” Fraser said in the report.

“This creates risks to program integrity and could leave many foreign workers in a vulnerable position.”

Many of these problems exist in Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which gives workers short-term working visas, expecting them to leave when it expires.

This program isn’t running in the Yukon.

The difference between the two programs is that the Yukon workers are intended to stick around and become residents.

And in the Yukon, follow up is done regularly, according to Shawn Kitchen, director of Labour Market Programs and Services.

“To my knowledge, we’re the only jurisdiction that goes out and talks to employers and employees on a regular basis,” he said.

This is fairly easy to do, given that most of the businesses are located in Whitehorse.

But there are some immigrant workers in the communities and the First Nations have hired a couple.

Businesses are responsible for finding the workers.

Large companies down south can often afford to advertise overseas or hire recruiters.

In the Yukon, most businesses sponsor people who are already in the territory for other reasons, said Kitchen.

Or they find their workers through relatives or friends of the potential workers overseas.

The territorial government-sponsored recruitment missions to Germany and France.

Unfortunately, not many Yukon businesses participated, said Kitchen.

When sponsoring a worker, businesses sign a memorandum that they will look after their health needs, help find accommodations, and pay a certain rate.

The immigrant workers cannot be paid less than a Canadian would earn in the same position.

But the territory’s program isn’t without problems.

Sometimes employers try to change the set job and pay rate that was originally applied for, said Kitchen.

And a few applications haven’t gone through because Citizenship and Immigration Canada had concerns of fraud.

Another big issue can be finding accommodations given the shortage of housing in the Yukon.

“It’s a challenge,” said Kitchen.

“Potentially there are a number of immigrants living in one house and there’s not going to be that much room, and overcrowding issues.

“We haven’t heard those complaints but I’m sure if you were to go out there you’d probably find some problems.”

Many of the workers are also overqualified.

Many come with credentials from their home countries, like teaching certificates for example.

It is very difficult to get those credentials recognized here.

Even so, they’re often making more money then they would back home, said Kitchen.

Joly had no problems at all with the nominee program.

“At first you have to provide a lot of paperwork, but since I got accepted it was pretty fast – it puts you on a highway,” he said.

“So like in a year, year and a half you can go from being just a foreign guy working for the company to almost a Canadian citizen.”

He also has high praise for the staff that run the program.

“The only downside of the program is when you end up with a company that you don’t like,” he said.

“I know a few people in that position. If you don’t like the company, you have to leave Canada.”

Davy doesn’t plan to leave Canada any time soon and will be applying for full Canadian citizenship.

And his fiance, who is an American citizen, is currently applying to the nominee program as well.

Mead-Robins was also very happy with the program and is even looking into sponsoring another worker, this time from the Czech Republic.

He’s never met the man, but he has all of the right credentials and comes highly recommended by a Whitehorse customer.

“At first I was very nervous,” said Mead-Robins.

“But the bottom line is I need the help, so I’m willing to take that chance.”

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com