Vancouver – Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino announced a new temporary public policy to facilitate the granting of permanent residence for foreign nationals in Canada with recent Canadian work experience in essential occupations.
In response, the Migrant Workers Centre (MWC) issued the following statement: Canada relies heavily on migrant workers, including undocumented workers, to perform work that has been exposed as being essential not just to our economy, but our society, our communities and our nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s announcement by Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino is a step in the right direction towards providing essential migrant workers a pathway to permanent residency and eventual citizenship in Canada.
Encouraging as the new temporary public policy is, the caps on the total number of applications that will be accepted mean that the vast majority of essential workers will be left behind. In 2019 alone, 404,369 temporary work permits were issued to migrant workers in Canada. The new program will admit only 20,000 workers in the health care sector and 30,000 in all other essential occupations.
Equally concerning is the requirement for applicants to be residing in Canada with valid temporary resident status or be eligible to restore their status. The Canadian Government has yet to offer a way for undocumented essential workers to restore their status during the pandemic. Undocumented essential workers have been working on the front lines of the pandemic, yet lack access to basic health care, and fear arrest, detention and removal from Canada. The exclusion of undocumented workers from this temporary public policy starkly contrasts recent efforts taken in the United States to regularize the status of over 11 million undocumented workers.
Finally, the requirement for applicants to take a standardized language test and achieve a result of at least Canadian Language Benchmark 4 creates an undue burden on applicants to undergo expensive language testing within a short timeframe when many language testing centres are on lockdown. The language requirement will effectively exclude many essential workers who otherwise meet program requirements, including work experience in an essential occupation in Canada.
Given this, MWC calls on Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino to:
- Remove the caps on the number of applications processed under the temporary public policy and expand the policy beyond November 5, 2021
- Implement a complementary public policy to allow undocumented workers to restore their status in Canada in order to qualify for the new public policy
- Remove the requirement for language testing
Today’s announcement also marks the one-year anniversary of MWC launching the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers campaign. Early on during the pandemic, MWC recognized the need for the Government of Canada to urgently create a pathway to permanent residency for essential migrant and undocumented workers. While many Canadians have stayed safe at home, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in our communities are putting themselves and their loved ones at risk to care for our most vulnerable, keep us fed, and deliver the goods we need. These workers are equally critical as Canada enters the recovery phase from the pandemic.
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