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by Eden Debebe

The federal government’s launched a pilot project offering undocumented construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area a chance at permanent residency. 

Spearheaded by advocacy and union groups like Liuna Local 182, the temporary program was launched in July 2019 with spots for 500 workers and their families. 

Despite heavy demand for the program to be put in place, there are still plenty of open slots available 18 months after it began. With the January 2022 deadline looming, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the role COVID-19 most likely played in low participation numbers.

“Well, obviously, so many initiatives have faced extra challenges because of this pandemic, but we’ve seen dozens of people go through this pilot project,” Trudeau said.

“It’s been a long standing request from the Portuguese community, from the construction community in GTA, including Liuna, who’ve really said we need to recognize these people who’ve been contributing and building to Canada and we’re happy we continue to move forward with that.”

If they see more demand for the program, Trudeau says he would consider making the permanent resident pilot project a permanent option for migrant workers. He also acknowledged the important role foreign workers play in building the country.

“It’s there to recognize people who’ve worked so hard in the community and contributed to Canada,” Trudeau said.

“We know immigration is an extraordinary way to build this Canada. We’ve seen generations of people come to contribute so much, not just their hard work, but their culture, their passion, build families, and contribute to our country. We’re going to continue to understand how important it is to support people coming to build new lives and we’re going to keep doing that.”