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Migrant workers claim Canadian federal program discriminates

A number of Canadian immigration programs allow for skilled workers from other countries to live and work in Canada and eventually apply for permanent residency. These programs include the Canadian Experience Class, the Provincial Nominee Program and the new Federal Skilled Trades Program. All three of these programs require workers applying for permanent residency to take language proficiency tests in English or French.

Ottawa is currently being sued in connection with the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FST), which was introduced in 2013 as part of the government's plan to address Canada's shortage of skilled-trade workers. The lawsuit was brought by more than 150 construction workers who say the FST discriminates against them because it welcomes only English- and French-speaking workers to remain in the country as permanent residents.

As is required by the FST, the migrant workers, who are from Portugal, Italy and Poland, have worked full-time in Canada for a minimum of two years, but many applications for permanent residency have been refused or not been considered because the workers failed the English proficiency test.

Indeed, in 2013 the number of individuals who could apply was capped at 3,000, but only 266 applied. Of those, fewer than 90 were granted permanent residency.

According to a spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, "So far, refusals have been due largely to applicants submitting incomplete applications or applying without meeting program requirements. This is not unusual for a new program, while applicants learn the requirements."

However, the migrant trade workers claim in their lawsuit that the FST unfairly favours English, Australian, Irish and French workers because they and Canadians have "shared values."

The government has asked a federal court to dismiss the case, and a ruling has yet to be made.

The Government of Canada website has more on the eligibility requirements for the FST program.

If you have legal questions regarding employment discrimination in Canada, then Overholt Law's employment litigation overview may prove helpful.

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