Training begins for Temporary Foreign Workers

Trent Ernst, Editor

Huizhi Li listens as an instructor discusses safety with the first 13 Chinese Miners.
The first group of temporary foreign workers who have come to Tumbler Ridge to work at the Murray River Mine have spent the last week training.
But their future is uncertain as Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley has issued a statement saying that the government is not happy with the way the process has played out. “Our government believes that Canadians must always have first crack at job opportunities in Canada,” says Finley. “We are not satisfied with what we have learned about the process that led to permission for hundreds of foreign workers to gain jobs at the Dehua Mines subsidiary in British Columbia.”
In particular, she says, the government is not satisfied that sufficient efforts were made to recruit or train Canadians interested in the job. “It is clear to our government that there are some problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. We take these very seriously and are currently reviewing the program.”
Finley is also worried that a review of the program will not just affect the Temporary Foreign Workers. “In conducting our review of the Program, we recognize the impact it may have on Canadians employed in connection with the Dehua Mines project. We will seek to avoid unintended harm to their jobs.” The 13 miners only arrived in Tumbler Ridge a few weeks ago. Since arriving, they have been learning safety regulations, learning about Canada and Canadian Culture, and learning how to speak English. 
It is a skill that some of them have already mastered, at least in part. Huizhi Li is one of the first 13 miners. While his English is halting and broken, and he occasionally needs help from a translator, he speaks far more than the proverbial 100 words of English. “I feel very good here. It’s very peaceful for me. The environment is very good.”
Li says that Tumbler Ridge is bigger than the small town that he  grew up in. “Most of us come from small towns, and not the big cities. The environment where I grew up is not so good. The lakes and river and grass were not so good.”
Li says that he’s been working as a miner for three and a half  years. He says that, while it was a “little bit scary” the first few times he went underground, that underground mining is safe. Here, he switches to Chinese. “In Canada it seems there is a misunderstanding. They don’t understand the environment of the underground coal mine. When I work in China, it’s very safe, and I feel very protected. The only concern is the darkness underground, but the lighting system is very good. There is no big deal.”
But rather than learning how to operate the equipment (which has yet to arrive), the miners are learning “daily English and special English for working,” says HD Mining’s Fred Ma, who is instructing the course. “The second thing they must know is about living and working in Canada, as those kind of things are new for them. We’re teaching them about the provinces and territories. We’re teaching them about the First Nations. And we’re teaching them about normal life and living habits. Because Canada is a country that has immigration, we must learn to integrate with all the different nations here.”
On this day, though, the workers are studying safety. “The first part,” says Ma. “Is about how we must abide by the laws and regulations of Canada for working here. The second part is about working safety: orientation, safety equipment. Later it’s about how to manage personnel things. The fourth part is how to deal with people when you are outside. The fifth part is on traffic safety.”
The course was expected to last about 15 days, but if the equipment doesn’t arrive, Ma says they’ll prolong the English training.  “I’m sure we’ll have more than the 100 words, because 100 words is not enough. In the future, we’ll encourage them to play and talk and interact with the residents here, so their English will improve quicker.”