Rural Immigration: Exploring Demographics and Temporary Foreign Workers in Brandon and Area

Funded through Manitoba Labour and Immigration.

In May 2007, RDI embarked on a new research project that emerged from their on-going work on rural immigration.  In particular, this new project focuses on the relatively recent phenomenon of the arrival of hundreds of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) to the city of Brandon and surrounding area.  At the core of the project is a demographic projection study that will provide pertinent data to community and government stakeholders regarding expected demographic changes in the coming years.  However, qualitative assessments of the TFW process, the nature and characteristics of the TFW population in Brandon, and the implications of such a phenomenon are needed to more accurately inform such analyses.

In the city of Brandon and surrounding area, various labour market factors such as labour shortages in low to high skilled jobs and expanding operations at industries such as Maple Leaf Foods are resulting in the need to adjust recruiting and hiring practices to extend employee searches beyond the provincial labour pool to overseas countries.  Regulated by the federal government, the Low-Skilled Temporary Foreign Worker program offers an expedited process for recruiting and hiring foreign workers with lower skill levels and on a temporary basis.  Of particular interest to this research project is the fact that in Manitoba TFWs can eventually apply to the Provincial Nominee Program, thus contributing to the province’s annual immigration targets and dramatically changing the demographics of rural centres.  Manitoba’s immigration policies and documented success with the Provincial Nominee Program make it a unique case in which to study immigration.

The following is a list of RDI’s research areas and interests:

  • Conduct a community scan of Brandon and area to understand the scope and impact of TFWs
  • Gain a general understanding of the perspectives and experiences of TFWs
  • Understand family reunification processes and experiences
  • Examine what it takes to be a “welcoming community” for newcomers
  • Consider TFWs in a regional context as a potential mechanism for rural community development and diversification
  • Provide an exploration of TFWs’ use of the Provincial Nominee Program and clarify the process by which they become provincial nominees.  This will further develop the notion that in some contexts TFWs can be referred to as transitional foreign workers
  • Understand long-term retention rates of TFWs in Brandon and area
  • Clarify and elaborate on the expectations, roles, and responsibilities of key stakeholders including government, community, and employers
  • Provide population projections and analysis to assist government and communities with future planning

The Temporary Foreign Worker Dialogue Group was established in September 2007. The need for such a group resulted from discussions with government, community, and industry representatives about communication challenges, information gaps, and the need for collaboration amongst all actors involved in the TFW program and process. The goal for each meeting is to create a forum that encourages dynamic discussion responding to the need for clarity and direction.  To date, four meetings have been held focusing on such topics as expectations, roles, and perspectives of key stakeholders involved in the temporary foreign worker process and issues of settlement.  Partnering with industry has proven to be effective with new, up-to-date information on hiring practices, recruitment efforts, orientation packages, and settlement strategies communicated to involved actors. The value of increased communication and information sharing has greatly benefited all involved in the Dialogue group. To date, participation has included representatives from Manitoba Labour and Immigration, Manitoba Agriculture, Food, and Rural Initiatives, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Service Canada, Rural Secretariat, City of Brandon, Brandon Regional Health Authority, Maple Leaf Foods, Westman Immigrant Services, and the Brandon School Division.

Research Objectives

  • Contribute to developing collaborative, local-level research on the impacts and instances of TFWs rural areas.
  • Understand the existing and anticipated TFW populations in Brandon and area and the impacts of influxes of newcomers on the community.
  • Bridge information, communication, and knowledge gaps amongst policy makers, community support providers, local governments, and researchers.
  • Provide community stakeholders and government officials with information regarding the TFW population and businesses’ intentions for recruiting and hiring foreign workers in the area.
  • Utilize and further develop demographic projection and analysis tools within a rural regional context to inform forward-looking programs and policies for service provision.