A new program announced by the federal government last week aims to tackle the problem of so few skilled immigrants choosing to work and live outside Canada’s large urban centres.
The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced the new five-year pilot program January 24, saying it will be aimed at both attracting and retaining skilled immigrants to Canada’s rural and northern communities.
The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot will work with communities and selected provincial and territorial governments to help participating communities gain access to a range of supports to help newcomers settle in as part of the local community, a federal news release stated.
“Immigration is a central pillar of Canada’s economic success,” said Hussen. “The economic and social benefits of immigration are apparent in communities across Canada. By creating an immigration pilot aimed at rural and northern communities, we’re looking to ensure that the benefits of immigration are shared across the country.”
The initiative has potential to benefit the agricultural sector.
“Our government has identified the agriculture sector as a primary driver for the Canadian economy, particularly in our rural communities,” said Minister Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Lawrence MacAulay.
“Increasing the labour workforce on Canadian farms and primary processing is critical to the success of our agri-food businesses and will help meet our Government’s ambitious target of growing our food exports to $75 billion by 2025.”
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is applauding the initiative and sees it as a way to begin addressing the sector’s chronic labour shortage.
CFA has specifically communicated to government officials the critical importance of increasing pathways to permanent residency for farm workers and other rural occupations since 2014, a CFA news released noted.
In that year alone, Canada’s primary agriculture sector faced $1.5 billion in lost sales as a result of 59,000 job vacancies in primary agriculture alone, and the figure is expected to nearly double by 2025, the release stated.
“In order for the Canadian agricultural industry to meet its immense potential and to grow as a globally competitive industry, which benefits all Canadians, the agricultural industry requires access to a robust, skilled labor force across our rural communities to sustain our industry and allow it to flourish,” said Ron Bonnett, president of the CFA.
“International workers are an important part of the diverse Canadian AgriWorkforce team,” said Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, executive director with Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) in a separate news release announcing that their organization, meanwhile, been chosen by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to lead a new program — the Quality AgriWorkforce Management Program: International Phase (QAMP) — investing $279,239 the nine-month project.
The QAMP will support employers who hire international workers to supplement their Canadian workforce, a CAHRC news release said noting that “the intent of the program will be to provide employers with the information, training and tools needed to efficiently and successfully hire and manage international workers.”
Research has shown that each international worker that is hired, following a stringent process to ensure qualified Canadian workers do not wish to apply, results in 2 to 4 full-time Canadian agriculture related jobs up and down the Agri-Food supply chain.