Commons committee to hold hearings on deporting of illegal skilled workers

Posted by admin on May 2nd, 2007

Commons committee to hold hearings on deporting of illegal skilled workers. Juliet O’Neill. The Ottawa Citizen Wednesday, May 02, 2007

MPs voted yesterday to tackle what critics say is an illogical policy of deporting illegal foreign skilled trades workers while the country faces chronic labour shortages in housing and other building sectors. The Commons immigration committee voted unanimously to hold hearings on tens of thousands of undocumented foreign skilled workers in Canada, many of whom work in an underground economy in which they’re underpaid and have
little recourse if they get injured on the job or face abuse. The idea behind the motion, proposed by Toronto Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis, is to stop deportations, which critics say were increased early among illegal workers last year and to legalize their status in Canada.

MPs cited estimates of 200,000 undocumented foreign workers in the country, and the total reaches 500,000 when children and other family members are included.

“We’re going to bring the human stories, the human faces into the House of Commons,” Mr. Karygiannis said.

Immigration Minister Diane Finley responded with a statement echoing the government’s reaction last year to a proposed amnesty for illegal workers: that it would be unfair to let people jump the queue when others who applied legally for immigrant status have waited patiently.

“There are no easy answers,” Ms. Finley said. “This is a serious issue, one involving families and often children, but it is not fair to allow some to jump the queue while others who follow the rules have to wait in line.”

The committee decision was welcomed by the Labourers International Union of North America, one of a coalition of organizations offering to help the government legalize undocumented workers, help get them certified in
Canada and place them in apprenticeships or jobs while their immigration status is processed.

“In all of the major sectors of Ontario in construction there are jobs … that are not being filled, and this has been going on now for several years,” said Jim Evans, government-relations director for the Labourers Union.

“There are projects that don’t start, are delayed and probably end up costing more money because they go slower than they should because there aren’t the skilled trades people to do the work. These projects are being held back because we can’t get people to fill those jobs, and at the same time the government is throwing people out of Canada.”

The motion to hold the hearings was passed by MPs in all four federal parties after Mr. Karygiannis agreed to delete a reference to government deportations at the request of Conservatives and added temporary foreign workers to the study as requested by NDP immigration critic Bill Siksay.

MPs may focus on the immigration point system, originally designed to attract blue-collar labourers. It was overhauled a decade ago to attract entrepreneurs and doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals, many of whom cannot find jobs in this country.

“There’s an unfair balance,” Mr. Karygiannis said. “We need working class individuals.”

Mr. Evans said the Labourers Union, in co-operation with church organizations and the Salvation Army, was willing to set up receiving centres where illegal workers could come and apply for legal status.

“These folks could come without any risk that they were going to be scooped up and deported and get their processing started and submit the stuff to immigration Canada,” he said. “Meantime these people would keep working.”

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