It’s now even harder for qualified Canadians to be hired into scarce full-time academic positions in their own country. That’s the fallout of a February agreement between the federal government and post-secondary institutions that outlines special exemptions from the temporary foreign worker rules, making it easier to recruit academics from around the world. Universities and colleges have used the temporary foreign workers program for years to bring in professors and researchers on a full-term basis.
“The program is intended to fill temporary labour market shortages and not to be a recruitment tool for permanent posts,” said CAUT executive director David Robinson. “The reality is there are scores of qualified Canadian academics who are employed on temporary and part-time contracts who should be considered for full-time openings.”
Post-secondary institutions had been required since June 2014, when the federal government tightened rules of the temporary foreign worker program, to submit a transition plan to the government when hiring for high-wage positions. The plans must show how positions held by temporary foreign workers will be made available to Canadian citizens.
Under the new agreement, post-secondary institutions are no longer required to file a transition plan with the federal government. Instead, universities and colleges will self-regulate by reporting to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, their national organization.
Robinson says recruiting internationally may be needed where there is a lack of qualified Canadian candidates for some specialized positions, but university employers should have to “make the case and provide the evidence to the government like every other employer.”
There were 5,961 graduates of Canadian PhD programs in 2011, the last year for which statistics are available. That same year 2,034 full-time faculty appointments were made across Canada.
The exemption is unjustified says Robinson. “There is simply no evidence of a generalized labour shortage of professors in Canada,” he said. “It seems that universities want to play fast and loose with the rules, at the expense of qualified Canadians.”
Robinson suggests the real motivation of universities may be to boost their positions in global rankings that reward institutions in part on the number of international students and professors they have.