B.C. migrant workers call for permanent residency program

The campaign calls the federal government to create a new permanent residency program for all essential migrant and undocumented workers.

VANCOUVER, BC - May 31, 2020 - Migrant workers, Victor Serrano Vargas and Juan Dias spray on a Barnston Island farm in Surrey, B.C., May 31, 2020. The B.C. government is hoping to fill a shortfall of migrant workers this year with local workers, but many people don't want to work in agriculture. (Arlen Redekop / PNG staff photo) (story by Glenda Luymes) [PNG Merlin Archive]

Migrant workers and advocates rallied for a “just recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic during a digital event on Saturday.

Chit Arma, who chairs the Migrant Workers Centre in Vancouver, says the pandemic has shown how heavily Canada relies on migrant and undocumented workers to perform essential jobs.

Yet she says it has also revealed how those same workers do not enjoy essential rights and have been placed in precarious situations through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program.

The rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre.

The campaign calls the federal government to create a new permanent residency program for all essential migrant and undocumented workers, and to allow the workers to apply for an open-work permit while waiting for their applications to process.

No one at the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada could immediately be reached for comment.

Arma says migrant and undocumented workers play key roles as health-care workers, grocery store clerks, cleaners, care workers, truckers and agricultural workers.

• The same day as the rally, the B.C. government announced an employer registry for temporary foreign workers.

Employers wishing to hire foreign workers through the Temporary Foreign Workers Program will have until Dec. 15 to register with government. In a release, Minister of Labour Harry Bains said such protections are long overdue and will ensure workers are not taken advantage of.

The registration requirement will allow B.C. to identify which employers hire temporary foreign workers and will enable inspection of those employers and enforcement of provincial law.

Until now, there has not been a system that registers and certifies employers who hire workers from other countries.

With files from Lynn Mitges

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