The Commons immigration committee has decided to hold hearings on tens of thousands of undocumented (illegal) workers currently in Canada. The inquiry will address the ‘illogical policy’ of deporting undocumented foreign workers while Canada faces chronic labour shortages, especially in lower-skilled trades.

Last year, the Canadian government dismissed the proposal to grant amnesty for illegal labourers. They concluded that it would be unfair to allow these individuals to get ahead of those who have applied legally for Canadian Permanent Residency and have been waiting patiently. However, the aim of the new motion is to decrease deportations and to make use of these illegal foreign workers to alleviate Canada’s labour shortages.

Pleased with the motion is the Labourers International Union of North America, which is part of a coalition of organizations who aim to help the government legalize undocumented foreign workers. The union is willing to set up receiving centres where undocumented labourers could apply for legal status without worrying about being deported. The estimated 200,000 current undocumented (illegal) workers would continue working in Canada while their applications are processed.

The government inquiry will likely address the Canadian immigration point system, which used to attract blue collar labourers, but now favours skilled professionals and entrepreneurs. This change, which was effected over a decade ago, has fueled the shortage of lower-skilled workers in Canada, which are vital to many sectors of the economy.

"There are no easy answers," states Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada Diane Finley. "This is a serious issue, one involving families and often children, but it is not fair to allow some to jump the queue while others who follow the rules have to wait in line."

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