The three-year project aims to fill labour gaps and provide permanent residency for ag workers
By Diego Flammini
The federal government is taking steps to address labour needs in the ag industry.
Today, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen announced the launch of a three-year Agri-Food Immigration Pilot project.
The program looks to attract butchers, food processing labourers, harvesting labourers, general ag workers, supervisors and workers with livestock experience.
The government will accept a maximum of 2,750 principal applicants plus family members each year of the pilot. And those families may use the project as an avenue to permanent Canadian residency.
“One of the ways to deal with (a labour shortage challenge) is to use immigration,” Minister Hussen said during the announcement at Maple Leaf Foods in Mississauga, Ont. “Helping (immigrants) integrate into their new communities is just as vital for them to stay in Canada.”
Potential candidates must meet certain criteria to be eligible for the program. The conditions include 12 months of full-time non-seasonal work in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and a Canadian Language Benchmark level 4 in English or French.
The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council documented the lack of labour in the ag industry in Industry Canada’s 2018 Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table.
Even with 45,600 temporary foreign workers, more than 26,000 ag industry jobs went unfilled in 2014, costing the industry $1.5 billion in revenues that year, the organization said in the report.
Having this new program to attract and retain workers will help the industry find the staff it needs, said Marie-France MacKinnon, vice-president of public affairs and communications with the Canadian Meat Council.
“There is nothing temporary about our need and our jobs,” she said during the announcement. “Butchers feed Canadians and they feed the world. This immigration pilot gives our members an ability to secure a workforce.”