By Lincoln DePradine
The federal government is launching a pilot program that will allow a path to permanent resident status for immigrant workers from the Caribbean and other parts of the world; they that are in the country fulfilling certain temporary seasonal jobs.
“Immigrants, as we know, help build our country and our economy. They help us address our labour market shortages; they bring much–needed skills to Canada, and they’re critical to addressing both of those, not only currently, but in the future,’’ said Immigration and Citizenship Minister, Ahmed Hussen, in announcing the “Agri-food Immigration Pilot’’ that becomes operational next year.
Among immigrant workers that will be eligible to participate in the pilot are those involved in meat processing, retail and industrial butchering, mushroom production and greenhouse crop production.
To qualify for the Agri-food Pilot, immigrant workers must meet several requirements. They include achieving a “Canadian Language Benchmark level 4 in English or French’’; the “foreign equivalent of a Canadian high school education or greater’’; must have “12 months of full-time, non-seasonal Canadian work experience in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in an eligible occupation in processing meat products, raising livestock, or growing mushrooms or greenhouse crops’’; and also ought to have “a job offer for full-time non-seasonal work’’.
Canadian government officials say approximately 16,500 new permanent residencies could be granted over the course of the pilot, which follows other recent federal initiatives that aim to help temporary foreign workers transition to permanent status. The pilot will run for three years.
“This three-year pilot will help the agri-food and agricultural sector to attract and retain the people they need to grow their economies. We have identified a particular gap and we’ve heard loud and clear from this sector that we need to focus on meat processing and mushroom production as they face particular ongoing challenges,’’ Hussen said. “They need people such as retail and industrial butchers. They need people like farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers and labourers, who have worked in food processing or harvesting.’’
According to the immigration minister, the pilot program “is not just about attracting skilled workers. It’s also about attracting their families’’.
Rodger Cuzner, parliamentary secretary to the minister of employment and labour, added that “temporary foreign workers who come to this country and work hard filling permanent jobs should have a fair and reasonable chance to become a Canadian, regardless of the job they are filling’’.
The pilot also has been hailed by Marie-Claude Bibeau, the Agriculture Minister. “The success of our Canadian farmers and food processors depends on their ability to recruit and retain the workforce they need to capture opportunities at home and abroad,’’ she said. “This pilot will help to ensure that employers in the agriculture and agri-food sector have the people they need to get the job done, to help drive our economy and to feed the world.”
The agriculture and agri-food industry is said to support one in eight jobs in Canada, and export of agricultural products reportedly hit a new record last year, reaching $66.2 billion.