The Pot Calling the Kettle Black
“The pot calling the kettle black” is an expression, which refers to criticism that could equally apply to the critic. Interestingly, similar idioms can be found in more than 30 languages, across as many cultures and so we can assume that this particular human disposition is universal in nature. It most certainly applies to the people pulling the levers at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).
Each month, we receive and review communications between and among Canadian immigration program managers and their counterparts at CIC National Headquarters, in our nation’s capital. Their inter-office memos are public information, and are available to all Canadians under the Access to Information Act. It’s a good way to keep abreast of what’s on the collective minds of the people charged with administering the various Canadian immigration programs.
What’s currently bothering these folks is the idea (and fact) that some semi-skilled foreign workers are paying good money to agents and middlemen for the opportunity of temporary employment in Canada. One thing is apparent from the content and tone of the messages back and forth. The concept of an employee paying for a job is unseemly, even dare I say it, un-Canadian. Like good soldiers everywhere, our federal immigration administrators are standing on guard for the protection of our Canadian values. Nor are they alone, having taken their cue from certain of the provinces that have passed legislation forbidding recruiters from charging potential employees a fee in exchange for a job.
Recognizing that provincial laws aren’t worth the paper they are written on beyond the borders of the province that enacted them, CIC officers are instead having to get creative in their crackdown on this questionable practice. They are deploying the old “wink and nod” protocol to prevent semi-skilled workers they suspect paid for their Canadian jobs from entering our country. More specifically, immigration officers are being advised from on high that they have no authority to refuse a Work Permit application just because provincial legislation has not been respected. Rather, immigration officers are being reminded that nothing prevents them from refusing a Work Permit application if they have concerns about the applicant leaving Canada at the end of their temporary stay. A refusal for any reason serves the same purpose. Yes, and good luck if you want to appeal the decision in Federal Court. Hope you have lots of time and money!
Personally, I see nothing wrong with the idea that a semi-skilled foreign national would voluntarily pay someone for the chance of working at a legitimate temporary job in Canada. As noted in one of my earlier blogs, Charles Darwin on Canadian Immigration, the Canadian immigration selection system is set up to reward applicants who can figure out how to make things happen. Since that blog was written, the Federal Skilled Worker category has been made more restrictive and qualifying for a Permanent Resident visa has become even more difficult. And so, if working in Canada legally gives a candidate an advantage, what’s wrong with paying someone for that opportunity? And make no mistake about it, working in Canada, even in a semi-skilled position on a temporary basis, can be very beneficial to the pursuit of Canadian Permanent Residency. As one example, there are a number of Provincial Nomination Programs that permit Canadian employers to sponsor semi-skilled foreign workers for permanent residency after six months of employment. There are other examples, as well. How about the opportunity for an unmarried foreign worker to meet, fall in love with, marry and be sponsored by a Canadian spouse, while on a Temporary Work Permit?
And now to the point of all this. A few days back, I was enjoying a little R&R on one of Maine’s beautiful beaches when I came across an interesting article in the New York Times. The story was about college students and recent graduates, who were having a tough time finding paying jobs in the weak U.S. market. So difficult, in fact, that they were not only turning to unpaid internships as a way to get a foot in the door, but were paying middlemen big dollars (between $5,000 and $10,000) for providing such opportunities. It got me thinking, if it’s okay for college kids in the U.S., what makes it so wrong for semi-skilled workers from abroad, who want to work in Canada? At least, the latter group gets paid at the end of the day. Plus I wondered about how good a deal it was for the employers in the U.S. After all, they get highly motivated workers and in some cases pay nothing or very little for their services. As a bonus, it turns out to be a good way of making sure their paid employees don’t get too demanding… good ol’ American capitalism at work.
Oh, yes, and here’s the kicker. One of the employers in the U.S. that is hiring these interns who paid middlemen for the job is none other than the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Go figure.