The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

August 26th, 2009

“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.

Previous Blog : Canada on the wrong immigration track?
Next Blog : Tempting… but don’t do it

3 Responses to “The Pot Calling the Kettle Black”

  • On September 1st, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    This is interesting and we got the pot. Immigration is a human need on this earth. Let's make it a free choice as much as possible. Loving Canada as a country is no less than loving a spouse of Canada. I am immidiately ready to find and talk to any helping agent in Canada who can help me reaching the door of an employer against any processing fees.

  • On September 3rd, 2009, Altus said ...

    I apologise for my negativity to follow, but I am extremely appalled by the recent activity of the Canadian IRB’s decision to grant Brandon Huntley of Cape Town, South Africa, Political Asylum.

    I applied for Permanent Residency to Calgary, AB for both myself and my spouse on 06 November 2008. My application was recently discarded by the High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa, due to the new immigration laws amended by Minister Jason Kenney on 28 November 2008. Both my spouse and I are in skilled jobs, but unfortunately both our jobs are not on the 38 occupations in demand list. This the sole reason why our application was unsuccessful. Of course we made use of an immigration consultant from a company here in Cape Town, South Africa, and we paid them around R25,000.00 (about CAD3,500.00) without any luck. Their company policy is that they cannot be held responsible for any changes in the immigration laws, and if the laws do change, we unfortunately lose our fees. Now, CAD 3,500.00 is a lot of money to me and I refuse to let this matter die a sudden death.

    I am glad that Brandon Huntley received the opportunity to relocate to Canada, legally, based on the decision by the IRB. I am not amused by the statements made by him that he is a victim of racial discrimination. South Africa, just like Canada, is a multi-racial nation and the continuous slander towards black people being the cause of all the problems here is becoming annoying. There are a lot of other people from other races that also do crime and crimes against other South Africans. And believe me when I say that there is a lot of crime here in South Africa without any solution or plan of action to stop it.

    I have also been a victim of crime many times, and I cannot help to think that if Brandon applied for Political Asylum due to the continuous violence against him, why can I not do the same. I think the system is being abused here, based on the facts that he was illegally residing in Canada after his Visa expired and now suddenly he claims to be victimised with a series of brutal crimes of which there is no records or Police statements.

    I am just so frustrated with the immigration laws at the moment. We desperately want to relocate to Calgary and start our new lives as Canadians, but we want to do the lawful thing and go through the correct legal process. It is people like Brandon that is the cause of the tightening of immigration law policies. And we, the people who want to do the right legal thing; we are the people that suffer at the end of the day.

  • On September 14th, 2009, Anonymous said ...

    Thank you, Mr. Cohen for this very timely and honest exposure of hypocrisy of the bureaucrats, who themselves collect tens of millions of dollars from immigrants (calling them 'cost recovery' fees) on top of billions of taxes from Canadian taxpayers and at the same those bureaucrats suffer from pathologic obsession to prevent a private, hard-working consultant/or lawyer to earn extra penny for the valuable services that they provide to immigrants.

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