As recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic continues throughout Canada and around the world, certain industries continue to experience labour shortages. The Canadian Government has been reactive to these shortages in various ways, for example, by trying to increase the labour force through expanding immigration options available for foreign nationals who wish to come and work in Canada. The Government is also considering the implementation of future policy changes.
One area that remains impacted by labour shortages is Canada’s agricultural sector. According to a recent report from the Royal Bank of Canada, approximately 40% of Canadian farm operators are set to retire in the next ten years. However, 66% of these producers do not have a succession plan in place.
The report further indicated that there would be a shortfall of 24,000 agricultural jobs over the ten-year period, which will impact positions including general farmers, nursery, and greenhouse workers. The report suggests Canada create new immigration programs in order to bring in 30,000 immigrants over the next 10 years that will work in the farming industry.
Canada’s farming industry relies on workers who come to Canada on a temporary basis as seasonal workers. However, the efficacy of this approach to securing farm labour may wane in the coming years as alternative farming strategies, such as growing crops in greenhouses, require year-round labour. In order to draw labourers to Canada, the report further suggests that a federal process should be created for experienced temporary foreign workers to gain permanent residence status through farm work. This type of program creation would not be completely new to the Canadian Government and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, as the Agri-Food Pilot already exists.
The Agri-Food Pilot was developed to help address the labour needs of Canada’s agricultural and food sectors. The Agri-Food Pilot provides a pathway to permanent residence for experienced, non-seasonal workers in various industries that are eligible as part of the Pilot. A comprehensive list of the specific industries and jobs can be found on the Canadian Government website. There are further requirements in order to apply for this Pilot, including:
The Pilot accepts up to a maximum of 3,000 applicants a year. These applicants are spread between the different jobs and industries included.
The Agri-Food Pilot was originally set to end in May 2023. However, the Pilot has been extended and is accepting applications until May 14, 2025.
Based on the aforementioned Royal Bank of Canada report, Canada could also offer some type of immigration alternative in order to incentivize foreign nationals to come to Canada and provide labour in the agricultural sector. However, there is some concern that after granting permanent residency, some agricultural and food industry workers may not continue to work in this sector.
The Royal Bank of Canada report also highlighted that skilled farmers and farm proprietors in other countries are losing their jobs due to changing environmental and regulatory regulations. In particular, the Netherlands and New Zealand are likely to face farming cuts. Therefore, one option to aid Canadian immigration is to offer some of these skilled workers permanent residency in exchange for their commitment to continue farming in Canada.
If such a program is created, Canada will have to weigh the international ramifications of inviting such farmers, including relations with the farmers’ home countries as well as the climate consequences.
Another attempt made to alleviate the labour shortages across Canada is the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The Temporary Foreign Work Program allows Canadian employers to hire foreign nationals as workers to fill labour shortages.
Several recent changes have been made to the program, indicating that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is prepared to make appropriate updates to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program in response to labour needs. As of January 2023, the family members of Temporary Foreign Workers are now eligible also to receive work permits. The policy change aimed to help Canadian employers with labour shortages while also helping temporary foreign workers and their families.
The Temporary Foreign Workers Program is split between the high-wage stream and the low-skilled stream. As evidenced by the name, the high-wage stream requires applicants to have higher levels of education, training, and job experience than the low-wage stream. If the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is opened up to more farmers, they will likely be eligible to apply through the low-skilled stream.
In order to hire foreign workers, most employers are required to complete a Labour Market Impact Assessment. However, in an effort to encourage more foreign workers to immigrate to Canada, Labour Market Impact Assessment exceptions could be made in the agricultural industry.
Looking forward, if Canada wants to address the ongoing labour shortages properly, it is anticipated that further policy changes will need to be made in conjunction with developing new programs.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law answer questions about immigration to Canada and help clients understand what immigration programs and streams are best suited to them. We successfully guide clients through the immigration application process while staying up-to-date on policy changes and new immigration programs. Our skilled lawyers work to find effective solutions to resolve your immigration needs. To speak with an experienced member of our team regarding your immigration questions, or to learn more about applying to the Agri-Food Pilot, contact us online or call us at 416-321-2860.
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