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

Climate change, economy and reconciliation take centre stage at Oct. 15 All-Candidates Forum

Six of the eight candidates were in attendance at the Smithers event

Health Foundation fundraiser provides new surgical equipment

The annual campaign raised $140K items such as a new surgical table and high-definition printer

WATCH: Candidates give closing statements at Oct. 15 BVCS All-Candidates debate

Five of eight candidates running federally for Skeena-Bulkley Valley were in attendance

Nearly 200 participate in Smithers 2019 annual Walk for Life

The walk is part of a number of annual walks across the globe that opposes abortion

Anti-pipeline protestors clash with supporters at North Matters event in Smithers.

The event was organized by The North Matters (TNM) and billed as a non-political event

Scheer, Trudeau, Singh haggle over potential minority government outcome

If you believe the polls, it appears the Liberals and Conservatives are neck-and-neck

‘The more you test, the more you find’: Beef recalls a sign of success, experts say

Despite appearances, experts say a recent rise in major recalls is not a sign of food supply problems

Japanese buyer expands wood pellet contract with B.C.’s Pinnacle

Mitsui and Co. increases contract with Interior energy producer

ELECTION 2019: Have Justin Trudeau’s Liberals really cut middle-class taxes?

Conservative Andrew Scheer vows to cut bottom bracket, NDP’s Jagmeet Singh targets wealth tax

B.C. RCMP officer suing the force for malicious prosecution

Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth cleared of wrongdoing after misconduct hearing

Talk to your kids about vaping, B.C.’s top doctor says

B.C. health officials have discovered the first vaping-related illness in the province

Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations court battle against RioTinto Alcan to start next week

Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations are taking Rio Tinto Alcan to court over their functioning of the Kenney Dam that affects the Nechako River

Alberta truck convoy plans counter-protest at climate rally with Greta Thunberg

United We Roll organizer says similar protest planned for Swedish teen’s event in Edmonton

British family deported after ‘accidental’ U.S. border crossing

U.S. officials deny it was mistake, release video of vehicle crossing into Washington from Langley

Most Read