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Canada’s unions call for pathway to permanent residency for all migrant workers

Canada’s unions are marking International Migrants Day by calling on the federal government to offer a pathway to permanent residency to all migrant workers who wish to apply.

The federal government recently announced that it will be accepting applications for permanent residence from refugee claimants working in the healthcare sector. This important announcement recognizes the crucial contributions refugee workers have made to the safety and wellbeing of communities across the country, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Canada’s unions are concerned that the eligibility criteria are too narrow.

“While we applaud the government’s recent announcement, the option to apply for permanent residency should be available to migrant workers in all sectors,” said Hassan Yussuff, CLC President. “The pandemic has shown that migrant workers provide essential services. All migrant workers deserve the opportunity to stay in Canada and to have their human and labour rights protected, just as any other worker.”

This week, the federal government also announced that it will allow seasonal migrant workers from Trinidad and Tobago – stuck in Canada due to COVID-19 travel restrictions – to apply for open work permits. This grants them job mobility, and gives them access to healthcare and employment insurance while Canadian officials negotiate their return home.

Although this is a step in the right direction, it highlights the vulnerability of migrant workers.

Migrant workers face insecurity, discrimination and often work in dangerous conditions. Their precarious position leaves them dependant on employers and makes them especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. The pandemic has only made this worse.

During the initial quarantine period earlier this year, migrant workers reported wage issues, food insecurity and a lack of required public health measures in their accommodations. By the month of November, nearly 2,000 migrant workers on farms across Canada had fallen ill with COVID-19, and three had died.

“The federal government must also ensure that migrant workers have comprehensive worker protections to prevent exploitation, abuse, mistreatment and discriminatory workplace policies,” said Yussuff. “These workers have been doing critical work throughout the pandemic to keep our families and communities safe and cared for, while they faced instability, insecurity and unfair working and living conditions. It’s past time for their efforts to be recognized and valued.”

Canada’s unions believe that all workers in Canada should be treated fairly. Migrant workers deserve a fair future just as all workers do. Our country’s recovery depends on the expansion of equal rights and protections for all workers so we can ensure a better, more inclusive, and just economic recovery.

Canada’s unions welcome increased federal immigration targets

Ottawa – Canada’s unions are applauding the federal government’s announcement today that it plans to welcome more than 1.2 million immigrants to Canada over the next three years.

The proposed plan will bring skilled workers, family members and refugees to Canada between 2021 and 2023.

“For many years, Canada’s unions have called on the government to increase immigration targets. We welcome today’s announcement as an important part of our country’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff. “A robust immigration plan will help increase our workforce and productivity. This in turn strengthens the social programs and services that support our communities.”

Lockdowns and other measures meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 resulted in a significant shortfall in Canada’s immigration numbers this year. Only 128,425 people were settled in 2020, far under the 341,000 that was previously targeted.

Furthermore, there are worker shortages in various sectors across Canada, which necessitate a ramping up of the country’s immigration levels. Despite current high unemployment levels in Canada due to the pandemic, the need for immigration persists including to support essential services in health care, long-term care facilities, farms and in meat processing plants, among others, as well as in high-skill fields in STEM.

Canada’s unions also welcome the federal government’s signal today that it will offer a pathway to permanent residency to immigrants and migrant workers already in Canada.

These workers must also have comprehensive worker protections in order to prevent abuse, mistreatment and discriminatory workplace policies.

“Workers deserve a chance to continue their lives here, regardless of the industry they work in. The federal government has provided a temporary measure for asylum claimants working in healthcare to apply for permanent residency, and this should apply to workers in all sectors,” said Marie Clarke Walker, Secretary-Treasurer at the Canadian Labour Congress.

“Our country and our economy are stronger with a rich and diverse workforce.”

To arrange an interview, please contact:
CLC Media Relations
media@clcctc.ca
613-526-7426