“The temporary immigration program for essential workers is exclusive” – RCI

Some experts doubt Canada could attract 401,000 immigrants this year. They fear travel restrictions, the needs of the immigration process, and slow mass vaccination pose a brake. (Photo: Citizenship Ceremony April 2019. Photo Credit: Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick)

An immigrant rights group is pressing for a change in a recently announced short-term immigration program, calling it unfair, exploitative and exclusive.

Canadian Immigration Minister Marco Mendesino last month announced a new immigration pathway that will allow the nearly 90,000 essential workers and international graduates already in Canada to convert their temporary status to permanent status.

The program, which will begin accepting applications on May 6, is a rare opportunity for low-skilled, low-wage workers to obtain permanent residency and, ultimately, Canadian citizenship through the immigration system that usually prioritizes highly skilled workers.

However, the Immigrant Rights Network states that a large number of workers, students, and recent graduates with temporary or undocumented immigration status do not fulfill the requirements for access to this immigration program.

The group claims that those who fulfill the requirements seek results from language proficiency tests and other required documents, as they compete for a limited number of places to be awarded on a first come, first served basis.

Marco Mendesino, Federal Minister for Immigration. (Photo: La Presse canadienne / Justin Tang)

“Any idea that the program would finally guarantee the rights, protection and dignity, even for low-paid workers, was short-lived.”The group wrote in a report published on May 4.

“Refugees, undocumented and hundreds of thousands of other immigrants have found that program requirements and exceptions leave them out of service.”.

These criticisms point to an initiative the Canadian government hopes will allow it to accept some 401,000 new permanent residents in the country, after a year in which travel restrictions and delays in treatment have slowed dramatically due to the pandemic.

Canada welcomed 184,624 immigrants in 2020, the lowest number in any year since 1998, according to Statistics Canada. The previous target for the pandemic set by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for 2020 was to welcome 341,000 new immigrants.

Under the temporary migration path, the Department of Immigration will accept up to 20,000 applications for temporary workers in the health sector, and 30,000 applications for temporary workers from the list of jobs considered. Basic It will also accept 40,000 applications from international students.

When the program was announced, the Immigrant Rights Network created an online tool to help interested individuals find out if they can qualify for the program. The tool also allowed them to share information about their personal immigration status.

The group said that more than 3,000 migrants responded to the survey and analyzed some of these findings in its report, which is neither scientific nor representative at the national level.

Many reported that they did not fulfill the eligibility requirements for one of the following reasons: They are undocumented because they have stayed in the country for longer than granted with a temporary visa or their work permit has expired, or because they are asylum seekers, or they are international students who have not yet graduated or are temporarily residing in Quebec.

Others are ineligible because they have previous medical problems or criminal convictions, or because they do not have valid language test results that show they are fluent in English.

Syed Hassan speaks into a microphone with his left arm raised in the air.

Syed Hassan, director of the Migrant Workers ‘Coalition for Change, addresses protesters during an activity for migrant workers’ rights outside the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Commission offices in Toronto, August 23, 2020. (Photo: La Presse Canadian / Christopher Katsarov)

“The federal government has created a short-term program for the few that excludes the many.”Said Hassan, Executive Director of the Migrant Rights Network, said at a press conference. «What we need is permanent status for all ».

Hussain said that people who do not have permanent status in Canada have limited access to work rights, health care and education. He was accompanied at the press conference by a number of immigrants who could not benefit from the program.

Abdul is a resident of Montreal and has only mentioned his first name, not his last name, because he does not have official documents and he fears the reactions of the employer and that they will inform the immigration authorities about it.

He said through an interpreter that he lost his legal status after arriving in Canada as an international student in 2015. Abdul said he has worked in a variety of jobs since then, as a shipper, in warehouse and construction, and that he has been tested.Inhumane conditions At the hands of employers who took advantage of his undocumented situation.

He cited, for example, the necessity to climb thirty feet of stairs without protective or safety equipment. He said that on one occasion he fell off a ladder and hit his foot, but that he had to continue working because he was not entitled to medical care or insurance.

“This program is unfair because it reinforces the divide that already exists between undocumented immigrants and other precarious immigrants and people with Canadian status.”Abdul said.

Application constraints

The survey by the Immigrant Rights Network also pointed to a series of obstacles faced by immigrants who meet the requirements to participate in the program: The difficulty is being able to reserve space to take English knowledge tests at one of the accredited testing centers, for example.

The second hurdle is that many workers do not have enough money saved to pay the exorbitant costs of applying for permanent residency, or to pay immigration advisors and attorneys to help them navigate the system.


“Collectively, this means that people who do not speak English, people who do not have good jobs, people without money, people who are stuck abroad, especially basic, low-wage workers, are pushed to the last place. In line.”

Hosan asked Federal Minister Mendicino to hold a dialogue with his agency to make the program easier. The Ministry of Immigration refused the interview request.

Raj Sharma, an immigration attorney at Stuart Sharma Harsani, a law firm in Calgary, said his office works with around 40 clients to help them apply for permanent residency status in one of the three options.

Sharma said that while a program that allows immigration for primary and working graduates is welcome, the language requirements cause an unnecessary headache, especially for those who have graduated in Canada from a post-secondary program taught in English.

“International graduates, for example, have already entered Canada with a language knowledge test.”Sharma said. «It is not necessary to require proof of language proficiency..

Sharma said he expects to fill 90,000 immigration slots within days.

Sources: CBC / RP Jones / RCI / RV Adaptation

Sacha Woodward

"Wannabe writer. Lifelong problem solver. Gamer. Incurable web guru. Professional music lover."

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