National Newswatch

Pilot to run until May 2023.


Ottawa—A three-year program to help agrifood employers hire foreign workers provides a badly-needed route to tackle the sector’s chronic worker shortages.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino says the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot will test an industry-specific approach to help employers in the meat processing, mushroom and greenhouse production, and livestock-raising industries fill ongoing labour needs for full-time, year-round employees. It will run until May, 2023.

Unlike the seasonal and temporary foreign worker (TFW) programs, the Pilot will provide a pathway to permanent residence for many temporary foreign workers already in Canada, he said.

A total of 2,750 applications will be accepted annually. With international travel restrictions caused by the pandemic, the Pilot now will apply to foreign workers already in the country.

The Canadian Horticultural Council said the Pilot recognizes the labour gaps in the fruit and vegetable growing and processing sector. “This program will help to build talent and retain skills in the greenhouse sector,” said spokesman Karl Oczkowski.

“The Canadian greenhouse vegetable sector supports a pathway to permanent residency for those temporary foreign workers that seek it. We value the TFW programs and will continue to work together with local communities and public health to support workers during their time in Canada.”

Marie-France MacKinnon, Vice President of the Canadian Meat Council, said the Pilot “is vital to our sector. Our members provide year-round, permanent jobs. There’s nothing temporary about our need for a workforce, and the TFW program didn’t work for our members – this pilot gives them a solution.

“It’s important to remember that our members always hire Canadians first. Allowing entry-level butchers means creating more middle-class jobs – which is what this government is all about. For everyone one temporary foreign worker, we also create four jobs for Canadians,” she said. There are more than 1,000 vacancies in butchering jobs across Canada.

Mendicino said the Pilot complements the existing suite of federal economic immigration programs, which includes the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, the caregivers’ pilots, the Global Skills Strategy, a revitalized Express Entry and the Provincial Nominee Program.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said, “This pilot provides an important path to permanent residency to these experienced workers, whom we rely on to feed our country and help grow our economy. The announcement builds on all the work we have done to ensure our farmers and food producers can count on the help of workers, while ensuring their safety.”

The occupations and industries eligible under the Pilot include retail butchers, industrial butchers, farm supervisors, specialized livestock workers, food processing labourers, greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production, including mushroom production, general farm workers, harvesting labourers and animal production workers.

Alex Binkley is a freelance journalist and writes for domestic and international publications about agriculture, food and transportation issues. He’s also the author of two science fiction novels with more in the works.
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