Families enlisted in foreign worker search
Alberta rules too tough, critics charge
Published: Friday, June 20, 2008
The Alberta government will expand its fast-track immigration program to include families, but some say the new rules unfairly disqualify workers without a formal education even though they are desperately needed for jobs on construction sites, in restaurants and hotels, and manufacturing plants across the province.
“Most (jobs) don't require a post-secondary education, they just need a set of hands,” said Carey Smith, general manager of the King Koil mattress manufacturing plant in Calgary, which is short 20 entry-level assembly employees.
The provincial government announced Thursday that Canadian citizens and permanent residents in Alberta can now sponsor a parent, child, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew to become permanent residents of Canada through the province's immigrant nominee program (which was called the provincial nominee program up until this week).
Previously, only employers could sponsor their employees through the program.
New workers coming through the family stream of the immigrant nominee program will face more rigorous requirements than the employer-driven section. They must have a post-secondary degree, diploma or certificate, work experience, and be between 21 and 45 years old. They, or their sponsor, must have at least $10,000 in the bank.
However, more and more of the foreign workers currently coming to Alberta for jobs, many of whom wish to stay in Canada permanently, don't have that level of education. Employers too are looking to find dishwashers, construction workers, security guards or truck drivers — and will provide on-the-job training.
The minister in charge of employment and immigration, Hector Goudreau, said Alberta is now short 30,000 to 40,000 workers, and will be short more than 110,000 workers in the next decade. He said the new addition to the province's immigrant nominee program will help bring workers to the province on a permanent basis to help with the labour shortage, and also help create a more welcoming environment for newcomers.
Goudreau said only workers with a post-secondary education are being allowed in through this program because some limitations are needed, “rather than trying to say we're going to open it to anybody and everybody, and have a massive flood of applications.”
He added, “it's not necessarily a family reunification program.”
However, if the program is deemed successful, it could be expanded, Goudreau said.
A department official added that workers who come to Alberta under the family stream do not have to have a job lined up — as other nominated workers do — therefore, they have higher educational requirements to ensure they will be able to find work.
Calgary immigration lawyer Peter Wong called the change “the most forward thinking and innovative program” to bring people to Canada he's seen from a province or federal government in a long time. Wong said his only concern is that it will be so small it will only have a limited impact.
However, United Food and Commercial Workers Brooks representative Archie Duckworth said he is working to keep hundreds of temporary foreign workers in Canada permanently, and the new program won't ease any of the labour issues at the Lakeside Packers plant.