May 11, 2021
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Expand pathway to permanent residency for essential workers, says BC group
Vancouver – Migrant workers and their advocates today held a press conference calling on the Canadian Government to expand the new pathway to permanent residency for essential workers.
On April 14th, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced a new pathway to permanent residency called the Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident Pathway. It provides 90,000 new spots for permanent residence, with 50,000 of them being for workers: 20,000 for healthcare workers and 30,000 for workers in essential, non-healthcare jobs. The program officially opened on May 6th.
“The government knows that providing these workers a path to permanent residence is the right way forward, which is why it created this pathway. But, for a program that is supposed to recognize the important contributions of essential workers, it leaves out far too many,” says Jonathon Braun, from the Migrant Workers Centre (MWC), during the virtual press conference.
“These workers, many of whom have been working in Canada for years, will be left with temporary status – and vulnerable to abuse and exploitation,” he added.
There are an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 undocumented workers in Canada today and they form the most vulnerable section of “essential service” worker heroes during this pandemic. Yet, this pathway offers nothing to essential undocumented workers.
Juan, an undocumented worker using a pseudonym to protect his identity said, “I think that the requirements for this program are not fair. Construction and agricultural jobs, offer low salaries but have high physical demands. They are executed by many people like me, who do not speak the language and don’t have a work permit. These requirements mean that we will never be able to access permanent residence and have the opportunity to be recognized as part of the Canadian society.”
“I would like to be able to apply for permanent residency so that I can work without the fear of not being paid and without the fear of being deported… I am sure that the work I have done has helped Canadian families to continue standing, despite everything that has been experienced with the pandemic for more than a year,” he added.
For agricultural workers, their precarious situation is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As agricultural workers, during the pandemic, we put our health and our lives at risk, working hard every day in rural areas, in greenhouses and in fruit and vegetable crops. For this reason, I would like to ask the Canadian government to also give the opportunity to access permanent residency for agricultural workers like us,” said Magali, an agricultural worker in BC.
“In my case, I became infected with COVID at my work. And like me, many agricultural workers risk their lives at their job,” she added.
Maria Cano, a caregiver and MWC Board member, added, “the requirement for language benchmark 4 is a barrier for many essential workers who may not have had access to language classes to improve their English or French skills while working in Canada. Also, many of the testing centres are completely booked up. Many people cannot even schedule a language test at the moment.”
Migrant Workers Centre calls on the Canadian government to improve the Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident Pathway by:
- Expanding the policy beyond November 5, 2021 and making it permanent
- Removing the caps on the number of applications processed under the temporary public policy
- Removing the arbitrary language requirement
- Removing the arbitrary requirement that an applicant has to be “currently” employed in order to qualify
- Implement a complementary public policy to allow undocumented workers to restore their status in Canada in order to qualify for the new public policy
“The exploitation and precarious state of migrant and undocumented workers has to stop. These are workers who often perform the dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs in our communities. Jobs that COVID-19 now highlight as essential. Beyond calling them heroes, let’s give them the justice they deserve,” said Braun.