New immigration pilot will offer residency to some migrant farm-workers in Canada

Meat cutting and processing, and mushroom farming industries rely on seasonal temporary foreign workers

A new three-year immigration experiment that will give migrant workers a path to permanent residency in Canada is getting a thumbs-up from industry but a thumbs-down from migrant rights groups.

Over the last several years, industries such as meat cutting and processing and mushroom farming have relied on seasonal temporary foreign workers due to labour shortages, even though the work is not seasonal.

A new pilot program announced on Friday aims to attract and retain migrant workers by giving them an opportunity to become permanent residents.

Currently, migrant farm workers who come to Canada through the program for seasonal agricultural workers are only given limited-term work permits and do not have a pathway to permanent residency.

Temporary foreign farm workers who are eligible for this new pilot will be able to apply for permanent residency after 12 months and, if they’re approved, will also be allowed to bring their families to Canada.

Industry groups are applauding the new program, which they say is badly needed to address a lack of people available or willing to work on farms and in food-processing plants.

A study by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council released last month found farmers across Canada lost $2.9 billion in sales due to unfilled job vacancies. The study also found the situation has improved, thanks to access to migrant workers and new technologies, but Canadian farms and agri-food plants are still dealing with 16,500 vacancies.

Ryan Koeslag, executive vice president of the Canadian Mushroom Growers Association, said Friday he is pleased to see the federal government willing to adapt its immigration policies to benefit certain agriculture producers.

“For the last decade or more, mushroom growers and other farmers, have fought for immigration access for our sector’s farm workers employed in year-round jobs,” said Ryan Koeslag, executive vice president of the Canadian Mushroom Growers Association.

But Chris Ramsaroop, spokesperson for the group Justice for Migrant Workers, said the access to permanent residency will only apply to those who take part in this narrow pilot program and will continue to be unavailable to the thousands of migrant farm-workers who arrive through the seasonal agriculture workers program.

“We’re dividing agricultural workers based on which industries are more deserving than others,” he said, noting migrant workers who have already been working in Canada in meat production or mushroom plants will have easier access to this program than fruit- or vegetable-farm workers.

Ramsaroop says migrant groups continue to call on the government to offer all temporary foreign workers permanent status upon arrival in Canada.

A maximum of 2,750 principal applicants, plus family members, will be accepted for processing each year during the three-year pilot. Applications are to be accepted beginning in 2020.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

FortisBC to offer free energy efficiency assessments for small businesses

Fortis BC wants to help 900 storefronts in Kelowna, Penticton and Rossland

$174-million acid plant up and running at Trail smelter

Teck Trail Ops; New facility replaces 1970s technology

Latest round of Columbia River Treaty talks wrap up in Cranbrook

Federal, provincial, U.S. and Indigenous representatives recently met for eight round of discussions

Update: Trail RCMP seize drugs, shotgun, and cash

Warrant in East Trail yields meth, fentanyl, heroin, gun and stolen property

VIDEO: Drone footage documents work to free salmon at Big Bar landslide

Video shows crews working to remove rocks and wood, and transporting salmon by helicopter

Defense says burden of proof not met in double murder case against Victoria father

Closing statements begin in trial for man accused of killing daughters Christmas 2017

B.C. dog breeder banned again after 46 dogs seized

The SPCA seized the animals from Terry Baker, 66, in February 2018

Surrey mom allegedly paid $400,000 for son in U.S. college bribery scam

Xiaoning Sui, 48, was arrested in Spain on Monday night

Three dogs found shot dead in Prince George ditch

The three adult dogs appeared to be well cared for before being found with gunshot wounds, BC SPCA says

B.C. party bus company to be monitored after 40 intoxicated teens found onboard

Police received tip teens and young adults were drinking on party buses and limousines in Surrey

Rick Mercer calls out Conservative candidate in B.C. for fake meme

‘Not true. All fake. Please Stop,’ tweeted Rick Mercer in response

Bear killed in Kimberley after chasing girl, wreaking havoc on town

This particular brown-coloured bear has been the subject of many calls this summer; very food habituated, CO says

Police investigate after intoxicated teens clash with security at B.C. fair

18-year-old woman arrested and RCMP looking at possible assault in Victoria-area fall fair incident

Most Read