Speaking notes for Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship: Launch of the Agri-food Immigration Pilot

Speech

As delivered
Mississauga, Ontario
July 12, 2019

Thank you very much for having us here and thank you to Maple Leaf Foods for hosting us today.

I want to take the opportunity to thank Rodger Cuzner, who couldn’t be here today. He’s the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.

He had a flight issue, but I want to thank him for getting us to today and for his advocacy on this matter.

Before I begin, I’d also like to acknowledge that this press conference is happening on the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit.

Immigrants, as we know, help build our country and our economy. They help us address our labour market shortages, they bring much needed skills to Canada, and they’re critical to addressing both of those, not only currently, but in the future.

The history of immigration in Canada is intimately tied to agriculture and over the last number of decades and centuries Canada has seen the ability of immigrants to settle in Canada and grow various crops in many regions across the country.

Agriculture and agri-food businesses contribute so much to our economy - over $100 billion every year - one out of eight jobs in our country and exporting more than $59 billion worth of foods to the world.

Employers in this sector have recently told us that they’re struggling to attract and retain the much needed labour and skills they need to grow their businesses. One of the ways to deal with that challenge is to use immigration to deal with the labour market shortages in this industry. By bringing immigrants with the necessary skills and the desire and the hard work necessary to succeed we are helping them to meet this challenge.

But bringing those workers and skilled immigrants to this particular sector of Canada’s economy is just one ingredient toward success. Helping them to integrate into their new communities is just as vital for them to stay in Canada, so that we have the needed, reliable and long-term experienced employees for this sector.

That is why today I’m pleased to announce the launch of the Agri-food Immigration Pilot Program, a new federal immigration pilot program to address this labour force challenge in the agri-food and agricultural sectors.

Je suis heureux aujourd’hui de lancer le projet pilote d’immigration dans le secteur agroalimentaire, un nouveau projet pilote fédéral d’immigration dans le but de relever ce défi en matière de main d’œuvre.

This three-year pilot will help the agri-food and agricultural sector to attract and retain the people they need to grow their economies. We have identified a particular gap and we’ve heard loud and clear from this sector that we need to focus on meat processing and mushroom production as they face particular ongoing challenges.

They need people such as retail and industrial butchers. They need people like farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers and labourers who have worked in food processing or harvesting. Currently this sector employs many temporary foreign workers who already are in our communities, are attached to Canada and would like to become permanent residents.

This immigration pilot will offer these individuals a path to permanent residency in Canada so that those who come here and remain in this country, and contribute to our economy, can do so on a long-term basis.

To be eligible to participate in this immigration pilot program, candidates must meet the following requirements: They must have 12 months of full time non-seasonal Canadian work experience in the temporary foreign worker program in the previous three years; they must be employed in establishments primarily engaged in processing meat products, raising livestock or growing mushrooms or greenhouse crops; they must achieve Canadian language benchmark four and demonstrate high school level Canadian equivalent or grade 8 education, and they must have a job offer for full time non-seasonal work.

We expect this pilot program to attract 2,750 principal applicants, plus their families, every single year for a total of over 16,000 people in the three-year lifetime of the pilot program.

I am very enthusiastic about this pilot project as a way to complement existing programs such as the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program, the Global Skills Strategy, the Provincial Nominee Program, and many other programs that have enabled Canadian businesses, including those in the agricultural and agri-food sector, to meet their labour force needs.

Even more, it demonstrates how we in Canada are continuing to build on a world class immigration system by using immigration to address labour market needs in a way that no other country is able to do and to listen to the particular requests made to us by a sector that needs skilled workers.

This is important because when an industry such as the agri-food industry faces labour market shortages it can affect many other sectors of our economy. We can’t do this alone. Government is part of the answer, but for these new temporary foreign workers to feel at home and to succeed in their journey towards permanent residency and eventually citizenship, we’ll need the help of neighbours, co-workers, and employers to welcome these newcomers and help them to contribute to our economy and to stay for the long term.

I am confident that this agri-food pilot program will provide exactly this kind of help. I am optimistic that the Agri-food Immigration Pilot Program will help to strengthen the future of what has always been an important sector for Canada.

I believe that together with industry, with our neighbours, with our co-workers, with the communities that are impacted, and with the government of Canada, all of our actions together will help to strengthen our economy, our society and our communities.

This program is not just about attracting skilled workers. It’s also about attracting their families. It’s also about working on retention and enabling an industry that is singing from the same hymn book as unions, as community members and as employers, saying that they need help.

They need to use immigration to create more pathways to temporary foreign workers who are already engaged in the agri-food sector, who are providing much needed skills and labour to this sector, to give them a sustained pathway towards permanent residency and an ability for them to join the Canadian family in communities in which they are already present and making a contribution.

In that, the government of Canada has heard you. I want to thank Rodger Cuzner once again for pushing us to do better by you and to get to this point, and for his hard work and advocacy on this file.

I can assure you that the government of Canada will stand with you to make sure that the immigration pilot program is a success.

Thank you.

Merci beaucoup.

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