Mr. Speaker, on May 5 I raised a question in this House concerning foreign workers entering Canada under articles 1601 and 1701 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, known as the NAFTA. The reason for raising this was a result of complaints I was receiving, complaints of abuse of the NAFTA provisions, complaints of blatant stretching of the rules, all of this to the detriment of Canadian workers.
The application of articles 1601 and 1701 is reasonable and straightforward. It recognizes that sometimes citizens of the U.S. and Mexico may want to enter Canada to sell products, or to service products, or to install products manufactured in one of those countries. In doing so it is quite a reasonable and simple idea.
Suppose an American company sells an automated painting machine to a Canadian company that manufactures something like wooden doors. When the equipment is delivered the American manufacturer may, pursuant to articles 1601 and 1701 of NAFTA, send a person knowledgeable in the installation and startup of that machine to supervise its installation. What is presumed and expected is that Canadian electricians and millwrights will move the machine into place and hook up the electrical service but the technical expert is simply there to direct and supervise the work.
What appears to be happening, or what is being suggested to me, is that this is being abused. It is being abused by the Americans who become more than technical supervisors, but who in fact become tradesmen. They start doing the work of people such as electricians, pipe fitters and millwrights. They pick up the tools of these trades and in doing so they put Canadians out of work. They take Canadian jobs from Canadian trades. This cannot be tolerated. The department of immigration must be vigilant.
My concern involving this arose from a series of complaints I received in my office. Quite simply, a number of tradespeople came to me and told me that there were at least 25 Americans posing as technical consultants on a job site in southwestern Ontario. The complaints were the same. These outsiders were working as tradespeople. They were doing whatever was required.
Subsequently the regional immigration office in London advised me there were 40 Americans on the site, 40 so-called technical consultants. When I asked whether immigration had investigated, I was advised no. To date it has not done so and the complaint was first laid on December 9 of last year.
This in my opinion is a sad commentary on the state of the immigration department. In fact the reason given was unbelievably weak. The department did not intervene because it did not have hard hats or safety boots for its employees to enter the worksite.
In her response to me on May 5 the minister stated “I would encourage any member who is aware of a situation to refer it to my department”. I hope that the minister today is re-evaluating the resources of her department. I hope that all of these potential abuses are being dealt with immediately.
In this case four months after the initial complaint nothing was done and to date nothing has been done. This is a tragic and sad commentary on how Immigration Canada protects Canadian jobs for Canadians.
I hope the minister will move more decisively and quickly to change this. On behalf of Canadian workers I hope that the minister will enforce the true spirit and intent of the NAFTA. Finally, I hope the minister will stand up for Canadians.