St. John’s calls for end to ban on temporary foreign workers

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on May 21, 2014

St. John’s city council says the federal government should end its ban on restaurants hiring temporary foreign workers. City councillors voted Tuesday to formally ask the federal government to lift its moratorium, announced in April in response to reports some restaurant employers were misusing the program.

Hazel Ouano-Alpuerto, honorary consul general of the Philippine Consulate in St. John’s, said the moratorium will devastate the local immigrant community, some of whom will be forced to return to their home countries if they can’t reapply for their work visas.

“If they are sent home, that’s much worry for them, because they have come here to seek a better life here in Canada,” she said after councillors expressed support in lifting the ban.

“They left their family and their children, and some of them that are here were in the hopes of a better tomorrow, and now the dreams are shattered.”

The dozen Filipino workers who attended the meeting declined to speak to The Telegram.

Leslie Brake, co-owner of restaurant Blue on Water, also attended in support, saying one of her staff is a Filipino temporary foreign worker who’s worried he’ll be sent home.

“He’s basically in limbo waiting to speak to somebody,” said Brake, adding she pays the man the same as the Canadian residents on staff.

“His permit is up for renewal September of 2014. … He now has to wait to see. He’s been working so long and finally in a position to work towards bringing his family to a better place where he can see them and live with them, and now it’s uncertain for him and it’s a tremendous amount of stress.”

Coun. Tom Hann introduced the motion to ask Mayor Dennis O’Keefe to send a message to the federal government on behalf of the city.

“There’s confusion. There’s anxiety being expressed and experienced because of the federal government’s inability to solve the current situation with regard to immigrant workers,” said Hann, adding the concern is that people currently employed — who have come to Canada seeking a new life — will be sent home once their permits run out.

“Right here in our city and province we have a community of immigrants who have settled here, who contribute significantly to our multicultural fabric of the city, our community and to the economy. … If a solution isn’t found, it’s all over for them.”

Councillors voted to have Mayor Dennis O’Keefe send a letter to federal Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney, asking that the moratorium be lifted in favour of a “more effective solution.”

“Do you want a nice letter, a nasty letter, or a nice and nasty letter? … Nice and nasty? I can do that,’’ O’Keefe said.

Coun. Art Puddister said temporary foreign workers should be paid the same as Canadian residents.

“I don’t believe they should work for a lesser amount. I think if they’re in this country, they should be working for the acceptable standard wage.”

Ouano-Alperto said she was elated by council’s support.

“We’re very pleased,” she said.

“There was no second thought from the council, and we are forever indebted to the support by this city and Mayor Dennis O’Keefe and through Coun. Tom Hann.”

dmaceachern@thetelegram

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel