In recent weeks, there has been a lot of media and industry attention paid to the issue of temporary foreign workers.  Media reportage focused on several restaurants in large urban centres which were found to be employing temporary foreign workers.

The Department of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) responded by placing a food services-related moratorium on the issuance of Labour Market Opinions (LMOs), a tool which allows employers to hire temporary foreign workers in specified circumstances.

Though the stated intention of the moratorium was to apply to workers in the food services sector, i.e., those whose primary purpose is to serve food or drinks, the online communications from ESDC may have confused the matter by referring to a list of occupations that are common in the retail sector.  In consequence, Retail Council of Canada (RCC) has received several enquiries from retailers wondering if the moratorium extends to retail merchants.

RCC Actions

RCC immediately contacted senior staff in Minister Jason Kenney’s office and in the communications branch of ESDC, asking that the intention and language of the moratorium be clarified.  We received verbal assurances that the moratorium on LMOs does not extend to retail merchants.  RCC CEO Diane Brisebois has written directly to the Minister Kenney, seeking written confirmation of that understanding.

Latest Developments

As of Friday, May 9, 2014, ESDC has advised RCC that in response to our intervention, the language of its website has been revised to clarify that the moratorium applies only to food services (even where the job description may also be commonly found in retail).  Though this addresses the issue to our satisfaction, RCC will also post the formal reply from Minister Kenney when it is issued.