Editorial: Program discriminates against low-skilled workers

When the federal government launched the Canadian experience class a few years ago as an additional way for people to obtain permanent residence in Canada, it heralded it as a key part of reforms aiming to better match the immigration system to prospective immigrants’ employability.

Under it, those who have worked in Canada for at least two years can apply for permanent residence. As such, it offers an alternative to the skilled-worker program that focuses on points and applicant’s qualifications for a number of designated jobs and professions.

The Canadian experience class was a welcome option as it shifted the focus to employability. If people have worked here for two years, presumably they could continue to do so with less of a transition period than those who obtain permanent residence from abroad under other immigration classes.

But as a new report points out, the Canadian experience class discriminates against lower-skilled workers.

The report, “Made in Canada: How the law constructs migrant workers’ insecurity,” documents many of the concerns raised over the years with the temporary foreign worker program.

They include low wages, mistreatment, and vulnerability due to workers’ temporary status tied to designated employers.

But as author Fay Faraday points out in the report, the government further limits opportunities for foreign workers in lower-skilled jobs in areas such as the food industry, cleaning, construction, and tourism by barring them from the Canadian experience class.

It turns out that the class applies only to people in managerial positions, professional occupations requiring a university degree, and jobs requiring two or more years of education or training.

This is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, as Faraday, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, points out, the jobs lower-skilled workers are doing aren’t temporary.

The so-called pilot project bringing in temporary foreign workers has grown significantly and accepts many more people since its launch a decade ago. It’s obvious, then, that the labour shortages in many of the areas it covers aren’t going away.

In the past, Canada accepted immigrants from all walks of life. We still need those people, so why not allow them to stay permanently, particularly given the well-documented aging of our population?

Faraday makes a good case when she says: “The workers who are being brought in are people who were, two generations ago, people who immigrated and did these jobs with status. If the people are good enough to work here, why not good enough to stay?”
— Glenn Kauth

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