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Cooper Institute Letter on PEI Immigration Policy

For almost two months now, members of Cooper Institute have been doing what they can to support the foreign workers who have been protesting changes to provincial immigration policy that have put their status in Canada in jeopardy.

 

In February the provincial government announced – suddenly and without warning – that it would be reducing the number of people to be nominated for permanent residency through the provincial nominee program by 25%, and that the focus would be on workers in construction and health care. Many of the workers who are protesting are employed in services and sales, and will not meet the requirements to apply for permanent residency.

 

We understand and support the workers’ requests of our provincial government to:

  • honour the commitment that was understood when we started our jobs on PEI, and to grandfather into the provincial immigration program, all the workers who were here prior to the arbitrary rule change in February,

  • reverse the exclusion of sales and service workers from the provincial immigration program. If we are good enough to work here on PEI, surely we should be good enough to become permanent residents, and

  • support the application for any workers who require a work permit extension.


We have written to the Premier and Minister of Workforce, Advanced Learning and Population, Jenn Redmond in support of these very reasonable demands. The government, when announcing the changes, inferred that reducing the number of workers coming to the province would reduce the strain on our healthcare system and help to ease PEI’s housing crisis.  There is absolutely no evidence to support either of those assumptions. Government has failed miserably in managing these issues and neither will be resolved by preventing a small number of immigrants from gaining access to permanent residency.


Island businesses have made it clear that they will be negatively affected by the likely loss of workers as a result of the policy changes. PEI already has challenges in hiring sufficient workers in both these sectors. Having fewer people available to fill positions seems very counter-productive to supporting a vibrant tourism industry or a service sector which depends absolutely on workers to stay open.


Finally, a comment on the humanity or lack thereof, demonstrated by government. These proposals seem like a breach of natural justice. PEI sent a message, across Canada and around the world, that we need people to come here to live and work and build up our community. The workers came. They came with an expectation that they would find employment, be able to live and pay their expenses, and be able to open a pathway to permanent residence. It is unfair and unjust to change rules once these commitments were made. These changes are having devastating effects. As Islanders we are better than this.


Blame for the healthcare and housing crises cannot be laid at the feet of critical workers. Government needs to consider other alternatives to addressing these crises and they need to send a message to the workers who are protesting that they are welcome and that they have government support as they build a future in PEI and in Canada.

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