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An Apology to the Foreign Workers Who Serve Us Fast Food

Canada's temporary foreign worker policy is at odds with Canadian values, and frankly, this is getting a bit awkward. If you're like me, you're beginning to want to apologize to the people who serve us fast food. And maybe we should apologize, though it's not our fault. If I could send a message to the Minister of Immigration I would tell him to be more pragmatic about the foreign worker problem. Not only is this easy to fix, it's imperative. It can make you look good, it's good for Canada, and you can turn this problem into a lot of new Canadian voters who'll love you.
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Dean Belcher via Getty Images

Canada's temporary foreign worker policy is at odds with Canadian values, and frankly, this is getting a bit awkward.

You know you're looking at a Canadian when they apologize when someone else bumps into them. Sure, it doesn't make sense, but we feel it's the right thing to do.

If you're like me, you're beginning to want to apologize to the people who serve us fast food. And maybe we should apologize, though it's not our fault.

If I could send a message to the Minister of Immigration I would tell him to be more pragmatic about the foreign worker problem. Not only is this easy to fix, it's imperative. It can make you look good, it's good for Canada, and you can turn this problem into a lot of new Canadian voters who'll love you. Also, it would alleviate some of the LMO headaches for your buddy, the Minister of Employment. (Now that's a guy whose going places, and then he'd owe you a favor.)

Before I can get to the Great Big Solution, I need to make us all a bit more uncomfortable by explaining how we got here.

Like many of life's problems, none of this was created on purpose. That is to say, nobody sat down and designed a work permit system that keeps people vulnerable and temporary. Unfortunately, we also didn't concern ourselves with making them permanent, protected or safe.

These TFWs trusted our Canadian values enough to come here and work. But we failed them. We didn't protect them from the profiteers, the human traffickers, nor from their employers.

In the end, when someone finally blew the whistle, we cancelled the program they came here under. The Minister of Immigration decreed they should all should go back home when their visas expire. For someone, somewhere, that's today. And just like that, the Canadian dream is over.

The moratorium on new Food Service LMOs has turned so many lives upside-down. These people don't want to leave, and most of them won't. The attempt to banish them without notice came from way on high, and it's not at all realistic. They will go underground, they will work for cash, they will continue to live as our neighbours, coworkers and friends. But every time they see a police officer they will be afraid, and every time the boss abuses their rights, they will be silent. It doesn't have to be this way.

Canada Experience Class Changes

Last year Food Service Supervisors and Retail Service Supervisors were removed from the Canada Experience Class, their best chance at becoming permanent residents and eventually Canadian citizens. The reason they were excluded? Too many applications were received from qualified immigrants. Yes, that's right. The program had so many qualified workers from food service who wanted to stay and immigrate permanently, Citizenship and Immigration Canada decided to kick these two professions off the list. They called this an improvement. Most Canadians would say that was a bad decision and the wrong way to handle the "problem" of qualified immigrants, whom we need, and whom want to stay.

Meanwhile, it wasn't too long ago that former Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney went on "The Late Show" in Ireland, trying to woo Irish immigrants to Canada. Why is it preferable to bring new workers from Ireland, instead of keeping the global selection of workers who are already here and working? Why are Irish potential immigrants more valuable or higher priority than others who have already worked for years and proven themselves?

It doesn't have to be like this, and it shouldn't.

So here is the The Great Big Solution: let's announce a new immigration class for Food Service workers. Lets do it fast so nobody gets deported, so nobody files a false refugee claim, and nobody does a marriage of convenience just to stay.

It's simply unacceptable to allow someone to come to Canada and be tied to a single employer, and once that job opportunity ends they're expected to leave. The "closed work permit" (single employer restriction) model is fundamentally broken and cannot be fixed. It engenders abuse and it must be abandoned for the obvious solution of long-term immigration for workers in our service sector.

Dear Minister of Immigration: I know you didn't bump into someone, but you can still say sorry and fix it. It's the Canadian way.

To make a difference:

Tweet Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister @MinChrisA

Or send him an email: Minister@cic.gc.ca

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