Toronto / April 16, 2021
On April 14, 2021 Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino announced a temporary public policy that would provide new pathways to permanent residency for essential workers and international graduates.
We are encouraged by the recognition of contributions made by temporary residents during the pandemic, and recognition of the important role they are playing in sectors deemed as essential. We are also encouraged that francophone immigration is recognized as essential for the continued vitality of Francophone communities across Canada, particularly outside Quebec.
We welcome the announcement of the new pathway for permanent residency for essential workers and international graduates who would qualify for admission, and welcome the pathways for qualified Francophone applicants outside Quebec.
People with precarious immigration status, including undocumented workers, have been doing work considered essential to communities and the economy in Canada, throughout the pandemic and even for decades before that. International students too have been working on the frontlines in essential work during the pandemic.
Canada benefits from their presence in our communities and relies immensely on their work – work that is often low-waged, and in many cases performed in difficult and high-risk conditions, and that has put them at high degree of exposure to COVID-19. Racialized workers are over-represented in these jobs, and face the added burden of systemic racism and racial discrimination.
The new pathway has a total cap of 90,000 applications. It will be made up of 20,000 workers in healthcare, 30,000 in other essential occupations and 40,000 international graduates. The actual number of temporary residents doing essential work in Canada is however in the hundreds of thousands. In 2019 alone, more than 400,000 temporary work permits were issued to migrant workers. A significant number of undocumented residents are also doing essential work on the frontlines, but are not included in the new program. They don’t have a pathway to permanent residency, nor access to basic supports and services including healthcare, and face the ongoing threat of detention and deportation.
The new pathway includes a language criterion of Canadian Language Benchmark 4. Meeting the language level, and successfully taking and passing the standardized language test required as proof can be a significant barrier to many potential applicants who would otherwise qualify – particularly in the midst of pandemic lockdowns and service interruptions. It is not clear what purpose is served by the language requirement since the applicants are already employed in jobs considered essential.
We welcome the new pathway as a good next step by Canada to recognize the critical role played by temporary workers in our communities and the economy. We urge the Minister to take the following further steps to build on these gains:
- Remove the caps on the number of applications for the new pathway, and remove the language requirement.
- Introduce a broad-based regularization program that would include undocumented and other precarious status workers working on the frontlines in essential work and who are critical to Canada’s economic recovery, refugee claimants, and the many residents with precarious immigration status who are part of our communities.