Temporary Immigration Pathway Announced For Essential Workers And Graduates

New Pathways Will Create Up to 90,000 Permanent Resident Spots

On the 14th of April 2021, an announcement was made by Immigration Minster Marco Mendicino. He announced that Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (‘IRCC’) plans to create several immigration pathways which will allow up to 90,000 permanent resident spots for essential workers and international graduates who currently reside in and work in Canada.

The temporary program, which came into effect on the 6th of May 2021, is a unique opportunity for low-wage, low-skilled workers to convert their temporary resident status to that of permanent resident status. This is in vast contrast to the normally prioritized highly skilled worker programs currently in effect.

On the surface, this sounds like a great initiative and a wonderful opportunity for many people to gain their permanent residence status, however, a group known as the Migrant Rights Network has highlighted sentiments to the contrary.

The Migrant Rights Network, one of Canada’s largest migrant-led coalition, asserts in a report entitled “Exclusion Disappointment, Chaos and Exploitation,” that the newly created policy will only serve a small population of applicants, in that it is restrictive against undocumented migrants, which the group estimates to include at minimum 500,000 people. Refugee claimants, international students who have not yet graduated, and temporary residents of Quebec are also excluded, meaning that at least 1.18 million people are excluded. Most of these people are employed in “essential sectors,” including in the list of occupations that qualify for the current program. Migrants with health issues, or with certain criminal convictions may also be inadmissible. As the group writes in its report, “[t]he well-documented over policing of racialized and particularly Black communities means that inadmissibility on this basis is an additional layer of racist exclusion.”

A large number of the very people this policy aims to aid are therefore not able to meet the initial qualification requirements. The group says that the people who qualify for this program will also have to rush to attain the much-needed language test results and other relevant documents to have their applications processed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The Migrant Rights Network created a survey to help applicants assess their eligibility for the newly created program. This survey, completed by over 3,000 migrants, identified several barriers to the program. One barrier deals with the difficulty in booking a language test at one of the two approved testing centres in Canada. The only two testing programs that are accepted by IRCC are IELTS and CELPIP. Another barrier is that most applicants do not have readily available funds for the payment of the permanent resident application, or to pay for representation in navigating the system to apply. Getting the required documents, which include police clearances, educational transcripts, valid passports, etc., is also exceedingly difficult during Covid-19, particularly from countries where government bureaucracies have been overwhelmed by the pandemic. This favors applicants from richer countries. These barriers essentially mean that any applicant who does not speak English, does not have a good job, does not have the money upfront, or is stuck outside of Canada, is being served last. As such, this program is not equitable nor is it inclusive. Low wage, working-class essential workers are served last or are de facto excluded.

A spokesperson for the Immigration Minister released a statement to the effect that the new pathway initiative is one of inclusion in that “from bricklayers to bus drivers to custodians, the range of eligibility has never been more inclusive.2” In fact, this program is said to be the most innovative program ever launched by IRCC.

The Migrant Rights Network has called on the Minister to involve them in making the process more equitable and inclusive. Meanwhile the 90,000 available spots are expected to be filled in the coming days.