Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Alberta immigration programs put on hold

Alberta immigration programs put on hold

Economic downturn reason for temporary suspensions, gov't says

By Archie McLean, edmontonjournal.com
August 24, 2010

EDMONTON — The government is temporarily suspending two immigration programs, blaming current economic woes for the changes.

The family stream and U.S. visa holder stream are part of the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program, which brings people to the province who are ready to work.

Both programs, which are two years old, are being dropped because of current employment conditions.

"If there is any work to be had, it should go to Albertans first, the rest of Canadians second and then, if we can't fill those positions, foreigners should be able to come and take those jobs," said Thomas Lukaszuk, Minister of Employment and Immigration.

The family program allowed people to sponsor their relatives to come to Alberta for work, provided they met certain general criteria. The U.S. visa program allowed people holding certain American papers to come as well.

Since the programs were introduced in 2008, the province has issued 4,216 immigration certificates.

Of those, 450 were under the family program and another 943 were part of the U.S. visa holder program.

Applications that are already in the system will continue to be eligible, but any applications post-marked after Monday will be returned.

The province will continue to accept applications for skilled and semi-skilled workers, international students, compulsory trades, engineering and self-employed farmers. This year, the province is eligible to nominate 5,000 people under new rules from the federal government.

Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald said the province is targeting the wrong program. If it is serious about protecting local jobs, the government would get rid of the temporary foreign worker program, which he said is creating two classes of workers.

"As a temporary foreign worker, I do not have the same rights as a landed immigrant or Canadian citizen," MacDonald said. "If the government was sincere, they would eliminate that program instead."

But Lukaszuk said the temporary worker program is different because employers have proven they can't otherwise fill positions.

"Those are jobs that either (an employer) hires somebody from outside the country or he shuts down his business," Lukaszuk said.

Families, Lukaszuk said, can still apply to bring relatives to Canada under federal immigration laws.

The province's unemployment rate is currently 6.3 per cent, which is down slightly from recent months, but up from the province's boom time when the rate was negligible.

Lukaszuk said the programs will be reassessed when economic conditions improve.

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