McDonald's Canada will suspend its use of temporary foreign workers following a controversy around three Victoria outlets, which reportedly hired foreign workers over locals.
The company described foreign workers as “necessary” to its business model, but would voluntarily suspend its applications pending a third party audit into any violations or abuse of either foreign or Canadian workers.
"The reason why we're doing that is we want to communicate to everyone we're taking this very seriously," McDonald's senior vice-president of human resources Len Jillard told The Canadian Press. "We're taking a pause. We're making sure that we've got everything in order, which I'm convinced we have."
Employment Minister Jason Kenney called the actions by McDonald's responsible and encouraged other organizations to take similar steps to assess their use of foreign workers. He warned that employers who abuse the foreign workers program could face fraud charges and possible jail time.
"If an employer lies on their application for this program ... that could constitute fraud, potentially, under the Immigration Act, which is a criminal offence punishable with jail time or very severe penalties," Kenney told a news
"We're putting, I think, the small number of abusive, bad employers on notice that we won't tolerate that."
A bill before Parliament would make it easier to impose administrative penalties on employers who don't follow the rules and the government has beefed up the program requirements to help prevent abuse, he said.
"We've extended the advertising requirements for employers, we ensure that they pay what's called the prevailing regional wage rate, which is effectively often more than what starting local employees get paid, and we're now charging employers fees when they apply for the program."
Jillard said the company still supported hiring temporary foreign workers in areas with labour shortages, such as small boom towns in Western Canada. A total of four per cent of the more than 80,000 McDonald's employees in Canada are temporary foreign workers.