National | Media Release

Statement on United Nations International Migrants Day

The National Farmers Union (NFU) stands in solidarity with all migrant workers on International Migrants Day. The NFU calls on the Canadian government to extend permanent residency status to all those who grow our food.

In April 2021, former Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) Minister, Marco Mendocino, announced a Temporary Policy to enable up to 90,000 essential workers already in Canada to apply for permanent residency under a streamlined set of eligibility requirements.

Agricultural workers were eligible to apply under Stream B, with an intake cap of 30,000, along with 94 other non-health care “essential” occupation categories. The cap accounted for only half of the 60,000 temporary foreign workers who arrive every year to perform skilled labour in Canada’s agricultural sector. Overwhelming demand meant that within two months the quota for Stream B was met and the application period closed.

We applaud the Canadian government for enacting this temporary policy. We recognize it as an acknowledgement of the valuable contributions of the women and men who travel to Canada to work in fields and greenhouses to produce the food we eat. However, requiring migrant agricultural workers to compete with the thousands of others who lack permanent resident status is divisive and unjust.

Barriers to migrant farm workers eligibility and access to the temporary permanent residency policy included:

  • the equivalent of one year of full-time work experience within the last three years.
  • completed English/French Language proficiency tests, especially when many language centres were closed and in-person training was unavailable due to the pandemic.
  • the minimum of $1,135 in application fees.

As war, climate change, and economic policies continue to displace millions around the globe, Canada needs to ensure its immigration and citizenship policies are timely, equitable, fair, and just. We should definitely be meeting or exceeding the government’s goal of welcoming 411,000 new immigrants in 2022. But why not start by welcoming the estimated 1 in 23 people in Canada who lack permanent status but who already learn, live, and work in the country?

Today, December 18, the United Nations’ International Migrants Day, the National Farmers Union (NFU) calls on IRCC Minister, Sean Fraser, to go beyond last spring’s temporary policy and create a permanent residency program that grants basic rights of citizenship to all migrant farm workers.

Rather than have different types of workers compete for limited permanent residency spots, we urge the recently re-elected government to create a permanent, designated pathway for National Occupational Classification (NOC) codes specific to farming. Hailed as heroes during the pandemic, migrant farm workers should not be treated as expendable and replaceable by our immigration policies.

For more information:

Jennifer Pfenning, NFU Region 3 (Ontario) member, Chair of NFU Migrant Workers Solidarity Working Group, jenn@pfenningsfarms.ca

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