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Migrant workers and permanent residency

Migrant workers and permanent residency

Temporary foreign agricultural workers can apply for permanent residency under Canada’s temporary immigration policy

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer

The intake period for migrant workers to apply for permanent residency in Canada opened on May 6.

This intake is part of the 2021-2023 Immigration Levels plan, which aims to “consider temporary residents currently in Canada who could contribute to economic immigration objectives. These foreign nationals are already employed in Canada and are contributing to the labour market, consistent with the goals of Canada’s economic immigration programming,” said a statement from the Canadian government. “In granting permanent residence to these individuals who have work experience in critical occupations, Canada will benefit from their skills and abilities over the long-term.”

The government is accepting 20,000 applicants from healthcare workers, 30,000 from other essential applications, and 40,000 from international graduate students, according to an April 14 release with program details. 

Agriculture and horticulture workers are on the list of eligible essential occupations, as well as construction workers, repair and service workers, heavy equipment operators, transport truck drivers, resource harvesters and more.

“As a result of the pandemic, attention has been placed on the ongoing need to fill certain essential occupations. By granting permanent resident status to those with experience in these occupations, Canada will be leveraging immigration … to help stabilize this workforce both for pandemic recovery and into the future,” explained the statement. 

The program, however, has been the target of criticism from migrant worker advocacy groups.

“Survey results released today reveal that 45.4 per cent of migrant workers and 34.5 per cent of international graduates are excluded from the new short-term immigration program,” said a May 4 release from the Migrant Rights Network. “Out of 3,000 survey responses, an additional 48.27 per cent of international graduates and 45.4 per cent of migrant workers do not have the language test results required to apply for this first-come, first-served program.”

Program requirements, including documentation and language proficiencies, are exclusionary and place financial burden on migrant workers, the organization says.

“Prime Minister Trudeau has the opportunity of a lifetime to change the course of Canada’s economy while ensuring equal rights for all,” said Syed Hussan, the Migrant Rights Network secretariat, in the statement. “We don’t need small, one-off, exclusionary pilot programs, we need an overhaul of the immigration system so that every resident in the country has the same immigration status and therefore the same access to labour rights, healthcare, and other essential services.”

Justicia 4 Migrant Workers (J4MW), another advocacy group, says the program is particularly inadequate in addressing the needs of agricultural migrant workers.

“These reforms do nothing to address how the current point system discriminates against both undocumented communities and migrants deemed ‘low skill’ and ‘low wage.’ More troublingly, the reforms do nothing to change the indentureship of thousands of migrant workers in Canada,” an April 22 statement from J4MW said. “Migrant agricultural workers who work under a system of indentured labour will once again see no improvements to their working and living conditions as a result of the continuation of a closed work permit system that binds workers to one employer. Instead, migrant farm workers are put into competition with over 90 other occupations for a measly 30,000 spots, when over 50,000 farm workers have entered Canada on tied work permits during the pandemic alone.”

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