The pandemic has highlighted the importance of essential workers, yet before the launch of the new pathways, there were limited options for workers in many of these occupations to become permanent residents.
The new programs open the doors to essential workers and recent graduates who are working in Canada. In 2020, the immigration minister went on record to say that it behooves us to find pathways to permanent residence for these people.
Indeed, he was right. Canada’s borders shut down in March 2020. Immigration numbers from abroad were slashed to the lowest levels since the 1940s when the war impacted global migration. The results? Canada’s population growth slowed to levels not seen since World War I.
We have known for a long time that Canada needs to maintain high levels of immigration in order to grow its population and address labour shortages. This is the reason the political discourse has remained positive around immigration, even during periods of high unemployment.
It is also why the government increased immigration targets to record highs, in an effort to make up for last year’s slump.
While travel restrictions are still in place, Canada’s only option to meet these targets is to look to those workers who are already here.
There are maybe 1.5 million work and study permit holders in Canada right now, supporting us in the fields of healthcare, food services, construction, and others. The new immigration programs will open the doors to 90,000 of them. They do not have to be employed in a “skilled” occupation, which is typical of many federal programs. They just have to be working and have enough hours of work experience in an eligible occupation. Recent grads just need a Canadian credential and a job. Both require basic to intermediate language proficiency in English or French.
While the programs are not without their holes, this is the kind of initiative we need. Beyond the fact that it makes economic sense, these people have risked their lives day in and day out to keep the machine running. If we enjoyed any normalcy during this pandemic, let us thank the clerk in the grocery store, the truck driver, the cleaner, the nurse, the farmworker, the teacher… Keep going.
What better way to say thank you than to offer someone, who would not have it otherwise, the opportunity to become a Canadian permanent resident.
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