- After a recent parliamentary report on labor shortages in the Toronto construction industry, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and the government of Canada have announced an initiative that would provide permanent residence for “out-of-status” construction workers.
- These undocumented workers often find employment in the labor-short construction industry, with "new Canadians" now making up 26% of the workforce. The government cited research that indicates that the construction workforce has relied on these undocumented workers, who often operate in an “underground economy,” for many years.
- The initiative would allow permanent residency for 500 construction workers and their families in the greater Toronto area, and would run from Jan. 2, 2020, to Jan. 1, 2022.
In a press release, the Canadian government introduced the Temporary Public Policy for Out-of-Status Construction Workers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), which will not only act as a recognition of the city’s reliance on these long-term resident construction workers, but as a functioning public policy that will provide a safety net for their undocumented status.
Toronto is one of the most active cities for construction in North America, with more cranes than any other city on the continent as of the end of the second quarter. The metropolitan area is rapidly expanding in population and striving to meet demand for housing and work space.
But additional construction demand is not the only thing adding to the labor shortage. A forecast by BuildForce Canada found that a quarter of construction workforce in Ontario, the province where Toronto is in, will retire in the next decade and that the industry would need an additional 26,100 workers to meet industry needs. The construction industry, according to BuildForce, will be actively recruiting new workers to replace its imminent retirees in the coming decade, especially as the country anticipates a yearly average of 131,000 newcomers.
Though just a temporary initiative, the policy will still increase the protection of undocumented construction workers and help continue to safeguard the country’s labor market, said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, which facilitates the arrival of immigrants in the country.
The press release acknowledged that these workers have filled a labor shortage in the construction industry and have contributed to the economy and communities. But without valid immigration status, workers remain vulnerable to exploitation and often have limited means to obtain permanent residency.
The CLC will prescreen and then send qualified candidates to the immigration department for a final assessment. With room for 500 workers and their families, the application will open on Sept. 3 on the CLC website.
“It’s a very small project for us but a very important project to initiate,” president of the Labour Congress, Hassan Yussuff, told The Star. “Some of these workers have been here for five years plus and their families have set down roots in this country. We need to find a way to resolve their status.”