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Yukon government clarifies foreign worker program intake suspension amid backlash

Cabinet communications says businesses will get program updates as soon as possible
Premier Ranj Pillai announces a pause to the Yukon nominee program intake for Whitehorse-based businesses at the Yukon government media room on May 16, 2024.

The Yukon government wants to be clear: the intake for the Yukon nominee program is temporarily paused for Whitehorse-based businesses because it has surpassed its cap and a backlog of current applications continues to be processed. 

The program is intended to help employers fill job openings by bringing in foreign workers. New applications from Whitehorse aren’t being accepted, although rural businesses can still apply for nominees. 

Suspending the program in Whitehorse is meant to manage the current volume of applications. 

“The labour pool in Whitehorse is more robust, which means that Whitehorse employers generally have more options available to them when it comes to fulfilling their labour needs,” Yukon government cabinet communications said by email. 

The Yukon Party called for clarity in a recent press release, after the premier went on local CBC radio and accused the media and a local business owner of spreading incorrect information. 

The business owner implied that the Yukon government is closing the pipeline for new labour into the Yukon, cabinet communications wrote.  

“The federal government sets the cap for this program, and we have already exceeded this year's allocation. While we have engaged with the Government of Canada on this matter, the decision ultimately lies with them,” reads the email.  

As of May, 590 applications have been submitted to the Yukon nominee program. 

That goes well beyond the 430-nominee limit set by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for the Yukon for 2024. 

Cabinet communications said current applications are being prioritized in this order: current work permit holders with approaching expiration dates, visitor visa holders already in Canada, current work permit holders with a permit expiring within a year and individuals currently located outside Canada. 

“Whitehorse employers are encouraged to explore other federal immigration programs to meet their short-term labour needs during the intake pause for the Yukon nominee program or seek out foreign nationals currently located in the territory with valid work permits, who they can continue to hire,” cabinet communications wrote. 

In May, Premier Ranj Pillai made ties between the Yukon Party and a Whitehorse business banned from taking part in the Yukon nominee program for a year. 

The ban against the legal name Yukon Food Concepts Inc. involves businesses under the names Destination Family Hotel and Antoinette’s Restaurant, according to the list of bans on the Yukon government website. The violation is listed as Type C, which involves “serious violations” like not paying enough, not providing enough work or getting paid to accept a nominee. 

Linnea Blum, who works in communications for the Economic Development department, noted the employer, employee and the Yukon government sign a deal that outlines the employers’ duties including: 

  • Follow the law set out in the Employment Standards Act and the Human Rights Act and, if applicable, the terms of any collective agreement. 
  • Pay the nominee for their regular hours of work a base salary of no less than a certain amount (as specifically identified). 
  • Pay for whatever assessments are required by the Workers' Safety and Compensation Act
  • Make all required deductions from the nominee’s pay. 
  • Provide free health insurance for the nominee until they are eligible for insured health care under the Health Care Insurance Plan Act

“When the department receives a complaint about an employer, it considers these responsibilities, as well as other direction within the agreement and within the Yukon nominee program policy. If the department receives a complaint about an employer who is in contravention of a federal, territorial or municipal law, the appropriate body will be informed. This was not the case in this instance,” Blum wrote about the current banned business. 

When deciding on a penalty, such as banning, the assistant deputy minister will consider the category of violation, whether this is the first time or a repeat offence and the severity of the offence. They will also determine how long the ban lasts, Blum noted.  

The online ban list contained no other businesses at the time of publication.

Cabinet communications said it can't comment on whether any businesses are being investigated by press time. They noted the Yukon government has rules to protect workers, and employers that don't follow the rules can be banned for up to five years.

"If a business is found to have violated the program, it will be posted online," per cabinet communications.

When speaking to the decision to generally suspend the Yukon nominee program intake to businesses in Whitehorse, Pillai said the choice reflects balancing the availability of homes and access to the health-care system as the territory’s population continues to grow. 

“The tough part about this is, yeah, we have to make sure that we don't exacerbate pressures on housing and health care,” he said. 

Regular intake to the Yukon nominee program is expected to resume in early 2025. 

“We have heard from the business community that providing advance notice is crucial to being able to adapt to changes; as such, we will communicate any necessary updates to businesses as soon as we are able,” cabinet communications wrote. 

The territory’s immigration strategy is anticipated to be released in the coming weeks.

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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