Naming and mapping companies interested in temporary foreign workers

Published: May 8, 2014

Rohana Rezel and a friend have set up a website to map businesses in B.C. that hire Temporary Foreign Workers and those that don’t. Arlen Redekop / PNG

GORDON MCINTYRE
VANCOUVER DESI

Vancouver entrepreneur Rohana Rezel has created a website that identifies and shows the locations of B.C. companies that have received approval to hire temporary foreign workers.

The site also invites companies to let Rezel know that they have not applied for any of the TFWs programs, but since the site is only days old, many of the ones showing up as of Tuesday afternoon were coffee franchises and Vancity locations.

“Vancity is the only banking institution in British Columbia not using the TFW program,” said Rezel, 35. “And I checked out the 50 largest companies in Canada and at least 40 of them have been approved for TFWs.”

His data only goes to 2012 — he’s waiting for 2013 data to arrive — and, he notes, to be fair not every company on his map necessarily has hired foreign workers. But he noted they have applied for the program and been approved, so they must at least have the intention of doing so.

Critics of the TFW program are sometimes labelled anti-immigration, racist even.

But you certainly can’t call Rezel either — he immigrated to Canada from Sri Lanka seven years ago.

He collected his TFW data from the Freedom of Information requests of others.

He is the founder and president of the IT firm Riolet Corp.

“Being a tech company, it wasn’t hard to take the data … and plot businesses on a map,” he said.

His map is divided between “good” companies — those who haven’t applied to hire TFWs — and “bad,” those that have.

Rezel said he’s not taking sides.

He agreed the terminology isn’t the best, with every company using the TFW programs being tarred with the same brush. But he also plans to introduce another category, listing companies that have been caught abusing the program.

That category, he mused, might be called “ugly.”

“This has been misclassified as a campaign against temporary foreign workers,” he said. “We’re an IT company, we don’t take sides at all.”

But he does have personal views on the program. “It’s a complex issue,” he said. “There are two sides.

“There is a time and place for temporary workers, for instance during harvest season or during peak times at tourist resorts such as Banff. Those businesses need legitimate help.”

And that was the original intent when the first temporary-workers program was introduced in 1973, he pointed out.

“It was never meant to replace Canadian workers,” Rezel continued. “And it creates two classes of victim because foreign workers can be exploited.

“The system is very flawed right now and open to abuse.”

gordmcintyre@theprovince.com

twitter.com/gordmcintyre

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