05/08/2015 08:37 EDT | Updated 05/08/2016 05:59 EDT

Stephen Harper won't allow 'permanent underclass' of temporary foreign workers

Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed Friday that Canada will not have an immigration system where foreign workers are in Canada over the long term without having the same rights as Canadians.

During a joint press conference Friday on Parliament Hill with visiting Philippine President Benigno Aquino, a Filipino journalist asked about recent changes to the temporary foreign worker program, which have hurt nannies and other caregivers from that country in particular, forcing many to leave their jobs with Canadian families and return home.

Harper said his government wanted to make sure that immigrants were not filling jobs that Canadians could do.

"Just as importantly, we're making sure that when people come to this country to work and to work long-term, they have the ability to move towards being permanent citizens of this country," he said.

"This country is not going to have a policy, as long as I'm prime minister, where we will have a permanent underclass of temporary people, so-called temporary, here for citizenship and no rights.

"That is not how we do citizenship. We will make sure that program does not drift in that direction," he said.

Canadian reporters at the same news conference asked for Harper's reaction to both Tuesday's election results in Alberta and the release of former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr.

​Harper declined to comment in detail on the Alberta NDP's win. On Khadr, he maintained his party's position that he is a terrorist. Harper said his thoughts are with the families of the American soldier killed in the incident for which Khadr was serving his time.

Harper and Aquino are meeting with members of Canada's 800,000-strong Filipino community and have a public event planned in Toronto later Friday. From there, Aquino travels on to Vancouver for the final stop on his three-day state visit.

Thursday, Aquino planted a tree at Rideau Hall, just a few metres away from a tree planted by his mother — former president Corazon Aquino — during her state visit in 1989.

He even used the same silver spade his mother wielded 26 years ago.

Aquino's red spruce can grow to more than 120 metres tall and will eventually tower over his mother's sugar maple.