Pilot Project Aims to Curb Labour Shortage While Helping Vulnerable, Undocumented Workers
Canada’s Federal Government has launched a new pilot program that will provide an immigration pathway for undocumented construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area.
According to the Toronto Star, the Temporary Public Policy for Out-of-Status Construction Workers in the Greater Toronto Area program will help 500 workers along with their family members based in the GTA obtain permanent residency.
“It’s a very small project for us but a very important project to initiate,” Hassan Yussuff, president of the labour congress, told the Toronto Star, adding that he estimates the number of non-status construction workers in Canada to be in the thousands. “Some of these workers have been here for five years plus, and their families have set down roots in this country. We need to find a way to resolve their status.”
The project aims to ease the shortage of construction workers in the GTA, and also reflects observations from numerous studies about the vulnerability of out-of-status workers.
Out-of-status workers are immigrants who have come to Canada with valid temporary residence status, but fell out of status and managed to maintain employment. Even without status, these workers have filled labour shortages throughout Canada and contributed to the Canadian economy.
However, due to fear of being detected, detained, or deported, these workers remain vulnerable, are unable to access social programs, and become susceptible to exploitation and abuse.
The program is a win-win for both out-of-status workers and the city of Toronto, as the city is exploding with condo, infrastructure and transit projects.
“It’s tough to build projects when you don’t have the labour,” Andrew Pariser, vice-president of RESCON, a leading association of residential builders in Ontario told the Toronto Star. “It causes delays and increases costs. That’s not going to be of benefit to anyone.”
The shortage of skilled construction worker also extends outside of just the GTA.
Build Force Canada, a national industry-led workforce management research group, has forecasted that Ontario will require an additional 26,100 construction workers in the next decade as 91,100 people currently working in the construction sector will reach retirement age.
Construction workers looking to be considered for the program will have to contact the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) to find out if they are eligible. All eligible applicants will then be referred to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
The application process will open on September 3 through the CLC, which will pre-screen and refer qualified candidates for final assessment. The initiative will run from January 2, 2020 to January 1, 2022.