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Not so temporary: Canada making it easier for agriculture employers to retain foreign workers

Under a new program launched Tuesday in Ruthven, Ont., employers won’t have yearly paperwork to maintain their migrant workforce.

Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA) are required by employers to prove they have tried but can’t fill a job position with Canadian workers. Currently they are only valid for 12 months.

“These LMIA’s, they can be labour some and any little hiccup can really throw things off,” said Michael Delciancio of DC Farms. “To have it [LMIA] for [a] 36-month period would definitely be beneficial.”

DC Farms produces eggplants and tomatoes in their family owned and operated greenhouses in Essex County.

Delciancio said they employ 12 migrant workers from Mexico.

“It's far from low skilled work. It's very skilled, and it takes a very certain mindset to work in the greenhouse industry,” said Delciancio.

Canada will roll out phase one of the recognized employer pilot (REP) in September 2023 to the agriculture sector.

According to a news release, employers must have a minimum of three positive LMIA’s in the past five years to participate in the REP.

The executive director of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers said it will ensure they get the workers they need.

“Every year you could be applying to get the same workers you've had for years. This program will allow you to apply once and that LMIA would be good for 36 months,” said Richard Lee. “It enables our growers to focus on what they do best — grow fresh, nutritious produce.”

“Employers will be subject to a more rigorous upfront assessment process based on their history and track record with the program,” said Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmiercyzk, who announced the program launch Tuesday in his role as parliamentary secretary to the minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion.

Canada is launching a new program to help greenhouse operators retain temporary foreign workers. (Michelle Maluske/CTV Windsor)

“Employers will also benefit from a job bank designation that shows their recognized status to improve interest from prospective workers,” he said.

The REP is a disappointment for the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

The group has been actively lobbying the federal government to give temporary foreign workers immigration status in Canada.

“When workers can’t complain and the federal inspection regime is broken, then how can you determine who a good employer is?” said Syed Hussan Tuesday in a virtual interview with CTV News Windsor.

The Alliance believes migrant workers don’t express concerns or file complaints about safety regulations or living conditions because they fear “reprisals.”

Hussan described the inspection system in Canada as “flawed” based on a report from 2021 by the auditor general which found that 88 per cent of the quarantine inspections were problematic.

“It doesn't make sense that the federal government is continuing to give employers more and more pathways and access to workers without in any way ensuring that those workers have rights that can only come from permanent resident status,” said Hussan.

The REP will be rolled out nationwide in September 2024. Top Stories

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