Yukon retains its foreign workers

Dan Charlebois is a big supporter of the Yukon Nominee Program. Of 110 staffers, about 40 are currently in the two-year program, said the owner and manager of Whitehorse's Canadian Tire.

Dan Charlebois is a big supporter of the Yukon Nominee Program.

Of 110 staffers, about 40 are currently in the two-year program, said the owner and manager of Whitehorse’s Canadian Tire.

Others have gained their permanent residency through the program and have remained in the business – some even moved on to management-level positions.

“We wouldn’t be able to run our business without it,” said Charlebois.

“Customers would not be able to get the level of service that they’ve become accustomed to.”

The Yukon government is negotiating with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to extend the Yukon Nominee Program.

The territory’s program differs from most temporary foreign worker programs to the south in that the workers aren’t actually considered temporary.

The goal is for the worker to achieve permanent residency and eventually Canadian citizenship.

Preferably, once they achieve this, they’ll decide to stay and work in the territory.

In order to maintain the program, the Yukon will have to prove that the program is working.

A large survey and report was created in June 2010, showing that businesses and workers alike were thrilled with the program.

But this report did not contain any information about retention rates.

The territory needs to prove that, once workers have their permanent residency status, they don’t immediately flee to Toronto or Vancouver.

The Department of Education, which runs the nominee program, will be surveying businesses this summer to learn about retention.

Charlebois knows what he’ll tell the surveyors when they call.

“So far we’re really pleased with the retention,” he said.

“I have some employees that came in 2008 and are still here. Some of them have bought houses and brought other members of their family. They’ve moved up to management positions and built a life here in the Yukon.”

Other workers have left the store, but many have gone on to other careers within the territory.

Some go on to cleaning services, but others go on to specialized careers like nursing – which they were often qualified to practise back home.

There are former Yukon nominees working at Copper Ridge Place and at least one of Charlebois’ former employees has applied to work as a nurse at Whitehorse General Hospital.

“I’d say well over 95 per cent are still in the Yukon,” he said.

“And they’re contributing to our community and our business.”

The Yukon Nominee Program began in 2007.

Since then, 537 nominees have made use of the program.

There are currently 353 people in the program.

Originally, it caused some concern in the territory.

Temporary foreign worker programs down south were mired in controversy, with little oversight. There were stories of people paying thousands of dollars to illegal recruitment firms only to find no job when they arrived.

Those who found work were sometimes severely mistreated.

And because a worker is tied to their employer for the duration of the program, the option is often to put up with the abuse or go home.

But so far, the only major issue with the program in the territory has been with two individuals who came to Alberta under the temporary foreign worker program, and then tried to switch to the Yukon.

It was found that they had broken the program’s rules and they were sent back to the Philippines.

Another concern was that foreign workers would drive down wages and steal jobs from locals.

“It’s a lot less expensive to hire local than to try to go overseas, and we’re always trying to hire local,” said Charlebois.

“But we’re just not having a lot of luck.”

A local student started a job at Canadian Tire last Monday and decided the next day it just wasn’t for her.

The week before, a young man also decided to quit, after working for 10 days.

Having the continuity of a worker committed for two years is a big bonus for employers. But it’s expensive to hire foreign workers.

First, employers have to find the worker somehow, which is becoming easier now as recent immigrants are beginning to recommend their family members for the program.

Then the employer has to pay for travel. And there’s also a lot of government red tape.

The biggest difficulty in Whitehorse is with finding housing. Again, it helps when new workers already have family members living in the territory who they can bunk in with.

“We’ve tried to hire people from Calgary and Ontario and Nova Scotia – and when they look at the price of houses now, here, compared to where they are, they can’t afford to move up here,” said Charlebois.

Canadian Tire has nominees from Germany and other countries as well. But most are Filipino.

That’s because there is a large support group for the Filipino community in the Yukon, said Charlebois.

Last February, the territory announced it was working on a new foreign worker program, to allow businesses to bring in short-term, seasonal workers.

The plan was to begin the program this summer.

However, the territory is still in the process of negotiating with Ottawa.

“They were working on the details, but the recent election has delayed that,” said Education spokesperson Chris Madden.

“They’re still in the process of negotiating at this point.”

Contact Chris Oke at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An avalanche warning sigh along the South Klondike Highway. Local avalanche safety instructors say interest in courses has risen during the pandemic as more Yukoners explore socially distanced outdoor activities. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News file)
Backcountry busy: COVID-19 has Yukoners heading for the hills

Stable conditions for avalanches have provided a grace period for backcountry newcomers

Several people enter the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Coast High Country Inn Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 26. The Yukon government announced on Jan. 25 that residents of Whitehorse, Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne areas 65 and older can now receive their vaccines. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Vaccine appointments available in Whitehorse for residents 65+

Yukoners 65 and older living in Whitehorse are now eligible to receive… Continue reading

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read