Greenhouse growers, Leamington mayor welcome news migrant workers may be able to bring families

Program could help the families of 200,000 temporary foreign workers. (CBC News - image credit)
Program could help the families of 200,000 temporary foreign workers. (CBC News - image credit)

The greenhouse industry and the mayor of Leamington are applauding the federal government's plan to extend work permits to family members of temporary foreign workers in the agriculture sector.

"We're still not really aware of how the intricacies of it would pan out, but on the surface it seems to be a good idea," said Joe Sbrocchi, general manager and executive director of Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

Sbrocchi says they have to work out details such as how to house the family members, and he doesn't know how many of the greenhouse growers would want to hire family teams. He says more consultation is needed with the federal government to work out issues.

Consultation is what the federal government is proposing.

Earlier this month, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced that the federal government would begin extending open work permits to family members of temporary foreign workers in a temporary two-year measure.

The program would roll out in three stages, the first expected to begin early in the new year with spouses and children in the high-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program being able to apply for an open work permit.

"Consultation with agricultural partners and stakeholders to assess operational feasibility for expanding the measure to family members of agricultural workers" would happen in Phase 3 of the program, according to a news release from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

"Everywhere I go, employers across the country continue to identify a lack of workers as their biggest obstacle," said Immigration Minister Sean Fraser in the news release from Dec. 2.

Fraser said the program would fill labour gaps by expanding work permits to family members of all skill levels. He estimates the family members of over 200,000 foreign workers would be able to work in Canada.

Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald also thinks the scheme is a good idea.

"It's an opportunity for people to improve their way of living. There are jobs here. We certainly need the jobs to be filled," said MacDonald, adding they are in the process of developing education programs so people can go from entry level jobs to higher level jobs.

"I don't see a down side to this at all," said MacDonald.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

Chris Ramsaroop, a spokesperson for the advocacy group Justice for Migrant Workers, wants to see protections and pathways to citizenship or landed immigrant status for the workers.

"First and foremost, workers should be coming to Canada with permanent status and families should not be separated so that people have the ability to work," said Ramsaroop.