The new Skilled Trades program, which Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced on Dec. 10 and goes into effect early next year, was long overdue. It took the government approximately 25 years to realize that their search for the best and most brilliant academics around the world was not working as the Canadian labour market has very few places for them.
The belief that drove the former program was that highly educated migrants would have a better chance at adapting and establishing in Canada was a fallacy which contradicted reality. Most highly educated immigrants preferred to return home or drive taxis rather than lower their standards.
The government is once again making a huge mistake with the new program by imposing a language threshold for Skilled Trade Workers to be able to obtain their permanent residence.
Look around construction sites and factories to see what countries these skilled tradespeople come from. The great majority are people from Latin America, Southern Europe and other non-English speaking countries. Stand by the sites and listen to their conversations and you will hear a variety of languages other than English or French. Despite their lack of official language skills, most of the workers are highly qualified and performing at their best. Their skills are transferable.
A welder, a construction worker, a cook, etc., can perform their duties in their country of origin and in Canada as soon as they arrive. Their work is exactly the same in any country in the world. That is perhaps the reason why we have never heard that tradespeople had a problem finding and retaining employment in Canada, and that is why we’ve never heard stories of tradespeople driving taxis or delivering pizzas because they cannot find employment in their fields.
The imposition of a minimal language requirement will impede the arrival of trade workers from non-English or French speaking countries, as tradespeople are not likely to have knowledge of these languages. Independently, there have been many studies conducted in Canada that have concluded that the number of visible minorities is expected to double by the year 2017.
When looking at these two facts and the imposition of language requirements for the trades, it would appear that the intent of the government is twofold: to try to provide the labour market with the tradespeople that are desperately needed; and the other, to reverse the trend of visible minorities becoming the visible majority in the near future.
(Vilma Filici is Director of Immigration Issues with the Canadian Hispanic Congress)
Editor’s note: Do you have an immigrant point of view that you’d like to share with our readers? Please send us a two-paragraph preview, along with two lines about yourself.