Trapped in the Promised Land: Recently Laid-off With Nowhere to go
By: Navraj Sekhon
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has impacted the job security of international tech talent in Canada.
In our increasingly interconnected world, fueled by the explosive growth of the technology industry, many Canadian tech companies have become reliant on highly experienced global talent. However, with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, many international workers are faced with job insecurity and are fearful of potential layoffs. A currently-unknown number of international workers are now stuck in Canada without a job or a way to get home and have fallen through the cracks of the COVID-19 response plan.
Currently, Canada is home to 21,000 temporary international workers, as a part of The Global Talent Stream/Global Skills Strategy launched by the Canadian government in 2017. The initiative guidelines require that global workers get approved for their work in Canada, and then, upon the port of entry get their work permit issued. When the worker has finished their contract, they may choose to return to their home country or seek a job at a different Canadian company. To do this, the worker must leave Canada and re-enter the country where their new work permit is issued.
The work approval process for temporary international workers is now broken. On March 16, 2020, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the Canadian borders would be closed in an effort to slow down the spread of COVID-19 . Consequently, Global Talent workers are unable to cross the border and have their new work permits, which is required for them to start working at their new positions. Additionally, with some airports shut down, these international workers have no way of getting back to their home countries. Although new exemptions were announced on Friday, the day by day impact of the pandemic is putting this group in a state of constant flux.
Some international workers in Canada are now trapped in a difficult situation; stuck, out of work and nowhere to go. These people left their homes behind to pursue the Canadian dream and help grow the Canadian tech ecosystem, but are now left in the lurch — while the state has been rushing to respond, this class of immigrants is caught in the middle with no clear plan in place to help them.
The time to act is NOW:
Any adequate solution to this problem will only result from open communication with those impacted by this ongoing crisis. We at Prospect and GSH strongly believe that global workers must be included in discussions surrounding employment security. We are working closely with the Canadian government to identify a fair and effective solution for Global Talent Stream workers in this time of need.
As part of an ongoing project to support Global Talent Stream workers, Prospect and GSH have launched a direct communication channel to engage with GTS workers and provide up-to-date information pertaining to job insecurity caused by circumstances of the outbreak.
Prospect has been at the forefront of helping displaced workers with the launch of a grassroots Talent Help List initiative. Global Talent Stream workers who have been personally affected by COVID-19 are invited to fill out this form  and provide details about their current professional circumstances. Those who fill out the form will receive regular updates from GSH and Prospect about the status of the work permit program and how to navigate the new exemptions and stay compliant.
With the government regularly making announcements about new policies and measures they are putting into place to help people like you, it can be hard to keep track of everything being put into place. Thus, the information collected from this questionnaire will allow us to help you navigate the current situation by providing you with updates, while also understanding emerging concerns regarding the situation as we liaise with the Canadian Government regarding this issue.
Let’s do this Canada!