It is likely that Canada will extend the deadline of a program to give temporary residents a route to permanent residency, and is considering expanding the program's eligibility to include refugee claimants, Canada's immigration minister has said.
"I think we should keep an open mind as to whether or not we should extend (the deadline)," Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino said in an interview.
He added that he's considering expanding future versions of the program to include refugee claimants, who get work permits while awaiting a verdict on their claims.
"I am always going to keep an open mind about searching for whatever policy promotes the greatest outcomes for our refugees, our immigrants and our country and its economy."
Syed Hussan, executive director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said it is "bizarre" that an initiative designed to give temporary residents a bridge to permanence excluded some of the most precarious.
"The very people who do work in healthcare at the front lines of COVID are excluded from this program," Hussan said, referring to refugee claimants.
Canada is set to bring in a record 401,000 new permanent residents this year. About 70% of the 222,275 people granted permanent residency by Aug. 31 had been temporary residents, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
Some Canadian industries have asked the federal government to allow in more migrant workers to address labor shortages.
Mendicino said it is important to provide more "transitional opportunities" for newcomers, but added it is "imperative" workers' rights be protected regardless of status.
"I firmly believe immigration status should not be used to exploit any individual. ... The ability to transition from temporary to permanent status can be one of the factors that strengthens the relationship between the employer and the employee by creating more of a balance."