Feds levy record fines for foreign worker exploitation

The feds are hoping hefty fines will teach some “bad actor” employers a lesson.

Driving the news: New government data shows Ottawa handed out record-high penalties to nearly 200 Canadian businesses last year for breaking the rules of temporary foreign worker (TFW) programs, including wage theft and workplace abuse, per The Globe and Mail.

  • Last year, $2.7 million in fines were handed out, while data from this year so far shows the average fine has now climbed to $29,000, up from $3,200 in 2019.

  • But some experts say the penalties aren’t big enough to deter bad actors, especially since less than a quarter of businesses with TFWs received compliance checks from 2019 to 2023.

Catch-up: In 2022, Ottawa modified its TFW program to help address labour shortages in sectors like agriculture and food service. The following year, the feds gave employers the green light to fill ~240,000 jobs with TFWs, more than double the approvals in 2018. 

Why it matters: Canada’s reliance on foreign labour has left some workers vulnerable to low pay, poor housing, and unsafe working conditions. One UN official has gone so far as to say the programs have been a “breeding ground” for modern-day slavery.—LA