Status for Asylum Seekers and
Permanent Residency for All Migrant Workers as a Pathway to Full Citizenship!
"The COVID-19 pandemic reveals how foreign
migrant workers contribute to Canada's economy and
society by doing the jobs that too few Canadians
want. Their work ensures that our food industry
thrives, that young, elderly, and at-risk
Canadians receive proper care, and that families
have much-needed support," KAIROS Migrant Justice
Coordinator Connie Sorio, a leading advocate for
migrant rights in Canada, writes in a May 7
article in the Hill Times.
She considers the action taken by Portugal as "an
effort to safeguard everyone's health and safety."
She writes, "Portugal took the unprecedented step
of granting migrants, including migrant workers,
resident status during the pandemic, and providing
full access to health care and social services."
She is also of the opinion that Canada must do the
same, but "could go one step further and grant all
overseas workers permanent resident status."
Sorio recalls that
in Canada, until the 1960s, "workers from abroad
who filled labour shortages were granted permanent
residency upon arrival." However in 1973, she
informs, "the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
(TFWP) replaced permanent residency and while the
need for migrant workers never abated, their
working and living environments suddenly became
She further explains: "Under the TFWP, most
workers are tied to one employer. While the
recently introduced Open Work Permit for Workers
at Risk provides workers with the opportunity to
leave abusive situations, the onus is on the
workers to provide proof of abuse. Because there
is no guarantee the permit will be granted and
fearing deportation and the loss of the vital
income that sustains their families, many workers
remain silent and as a result workplace abuses and
injuries are seldom reported."
Sorio also informs that "Opportunities to apply
for permanent residency range from difficult to
impossible depending on the occupation. For
example, under the new Caregiver Pilot Program,
prospective caregivers can apply but only after a
gruelling and expensive process, while agriculture
workers and meat processors cannot, despite
working for years and sometimes decades in Canada.
Until recently, no workers could bring their
families with them, a cruel separation that has
finally and mercifully ended for caregivers, but
Even though the federal government has taken
certain steps such as lowering eligibility
requirements to access Employment Insurance (EI)
and introducing new criteria for farmers to help
safeguard worker safety, she asserts that "much
more needs to be done."
The federal government's new supports cover
"temporary foreign workers who have lost their job
due to COVID-19 layoffs, or who have had to stop
working because of illness, but workers face
barriers in accessing the benefits because
information about support is not available in
their language or requires a computer and
internet, which many don't have," she writes.
"Also, the package
does not support workers who lost their status
because they fell through bureaucratic cracks,"
nor does it " guarantee compliance of public
health directives on farms, in meat processing
facilities, and at other workplaces."
"The Canadian government need only look to
Portugal for an efficient and speedy solution to
safeguarding the safety and security of these
critical workers and all Canadians: grant them
residency status." It is also her view that moving
forward all migrant foreign workers should be
given "access to permanent residency upon arrival
as part of building a fair and inclusive country.
In 2019, the federal government took steps in this
direction by strengthening the caregivers' pathway
to permanent residency conditional to having
completed two years of work in Canada. It must
extend this program to workers in all sectors."
Sorio concludes: "COVID-19 has shined a light on
the precarious employment of many essential
workers, including those from overseas. Granting
residency to migrant workers will demonstrate
genuine appreciation for the services they
provide, creating a pathway to citizenship and
eliminating the systemic barriers embedded in
temporary foreign worker programs.
"Now is the time for change."
This article was published in
Volume 50 Number 17 - May 16, 2020
Status for Asylum Seekers and
Migrant Workers: Permanent Residency for All Migrant Workers as a Pathway to Full Citizenship!