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Canada Restaurant Industry Needs Immigrant Workers

Blog posted on by Evelyn Ackah in Temporary Foreign Worker Program and Low Skilled Immigrants

Canada Restaurant Industry Needs Immigrant Workers

In the third quarter of 2019, there were 67,370 vacant jobs in Canadian food service and drinking establishments, according to Statistics Canada. This restaurant labour shortage is the highest in nearly five years. During the holiday season, Canada restaurants faced a critical shortage of workers:

Record low unemployment, shifting demographics and competition for workers from a slew of new restaurants and food delivery services are making it tough for restaurants to find enough workers to operate at capacity — opening the patio in summer or hosting private parties during the holidays. Executing expansion plans seems impossible.

Canada's restaurant industry is facing a labour shortage and needs immigrant workers for semi-skilled and low-skilled jobs.

Canada's Workforce Is Shrinking

Canadian employers are facing an aging workforce and need more lower-skilled immigrants to fill jobs. Restaurant and food services traditionally attract a young workforce, say restaurant owners and industry associations.

  • In 2019 Canadians under age 25 made up only 28.25 of the population in 2019, versus 48.1% in 1971
  • Canada's overall unemployment rate is at historic lows
  • A housing shortage and high housing costs make it difficult to live on entry-level food service salaries
  • More workers 24 and under are choosing fields higher-paying fields such as tech, transportation, retail and education over lower-pay fields

The Association Restauration Québec, representing 5,550 restaurant owners, told a legislature committee their situation is critical with 14,000 vacant jobs for cooks, waiters and kitchen staff across Quebec, and that more foreign workers are needed "to fill the jobs of cooks, servers and kitchen staff." Quebec, British Columbia and some parts of Atlantic Canada have the worst shortages right now, according to Restaurants Canada, but food industry labour shortages exist across the country, including places like Banff, Alberta.

Looser Immigration Rules Can Help the Restaurant Labor Shortage

David Lefebvre, vice president of industry association Restaurants Canada, told CBC that the industry "wants the government to loosen rules about who can come to Canada to work in the field so it's not just trained chefs who can move here, but front-of-house and other kitchen staff, too."

  • The Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts at Toronto's George Brown College, enrolment by Canadians has plateaued, while international students have increased by six-fold between 2009 and 2019
  • There are more than 67,000 vacant positions in bars and food service

Restaurant owner Hemant Bhagwani told CBC,

I cannot open a restaurant without hiring a foreign worker inside my kitchen, period.

Canada Needs More Low Skilled, Entry Level Immigrants

Canada's merit-based immigration system favors highly skilled and educated immigrants who can help grow the local economy and create jobs. Canadian employers are struggling to fill positions for farm workers, truck drivers and food service personnel. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which advocates for small businesses, has urged the government to broaden its immigration system to include more trade and semiskilled workers.

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"Canada is a safe, friendly and welcoming country that appreciates the contributions immigrants make to help build our economy," said Calgary immigration lawyer Evelyn Ackah.


Evelyn Ackah

Founder/Managing Lawyer

Ms. Ackah is passionate about immigration law because it focuses on people and relationships, which are at the core of her personal values. Starting her legal career as a corporate/commercial ...

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It is one thing to earn a living; it is another thing to make a difference in the world.

This is our formal thank you note to Evelyn Ackah and the Ackah Law Team for all the effort they put into helping us navigate and finally resolve the hurdle that was Canadian Immigration back in the spring of 2012.

A friend referred us to Evelyn; he assured us that Evelyn would take good care of us. Our friend was confident we were in good hands and said Evelyn would do her very best to help us and she did! At the time we did not know that his referral would go far beyond finding us help. Slowly we realized that it would become our own personal story of how we received grace and were reminded of the power in paying it forward

We wrote a detailed page of our dilemma, explaining how we came to be in the position we were in (overwhelmed with the hurdle that was Canadian Immigration and the uncertainty that we faced as a young family in Calgary). Evelyn agreed to take on our file with her team. They found the time to personally call us and listened intently and understood the details of what we were dealing with. They gave us their time, an honest opinion and provided clear direction which proved to be invaluable advice. Months went by but in time, we received word from Ackah Law that the Immigration office had finally reviewed our file and a decision had been made allowing our family to finally put the immigration matter to rest. We were finally able to focus again to live our lives without fear or pending doom.

Looking back now, even the sun appeared to shine a little brighter that day. At first we didn’t know whether to bake them a cake, drive out to meet their team, find their offices and personally thank them with a mighty hug or simply cry out to the heavens in thankful relief. Instead we emailed them to express our heartfelt thank-you and we hoped that they would know deep in their hearts just how grateful we were for all of their help.

Even though we relied on emails and phone conversations to communicate with them that year, we will always remember their constant professionalism, their kindness and understanding at a time that brought us so much pain not to mention fear. As if all their hard work wasn’t enough, Evelyn then then casually mentions that all their work was done pro-bono! We were thoroughly humbled!

To this day we are still eager to share how wonderful they all are as human beings but even more than that, we continue to pay it forward in honour of them, their service to us and their continued dedication in helping others.

Eternally thankful

– The Brummunds

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