June 6, 2024

Minister Jenn Redmond
Workforce, Advanced Learning and Population
PO Box 2000, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8

Dear Minister Redmond,

Members of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women wish to voice their support for the migrant workers wanting to stay working in PEI and continuing on their path to Permanent Residency in Canada. The PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women is comprised of nine women appointed by government to provide input and advice on provincial policy and education on gender equity issues to the public, and they have asked me to write this letter.

We are concerned that recent changes to immigration policies in PEI have left migrant workers in a very tenuous position. They came to fill gaps in our workforce when we needed them. They took jobs that were going vacant, that were public-facing, and that were deemed essential services
during the COVID pandemic. They came to PEI with the understanding that they were on a path to Permanent Residency in Canada. Changing the rules midstream is completely unjust and unnecessary, and it is within the jurisdiction of the provincial government to decide to honour the original agreements with workers who are already here before policy changes were announced. The workers living and working here now should be “grandmothered in” under the work permit conditions that they agreed to when they came to work in PEI.

As the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, we are especially concerned about the gender impacts of the government decision to change policy on applying for Permanent Residency. We know that many of the workplaces that are going to be most impacted by this change are those in the service industries, sales, hospitality, restaurants, and caregiving in health and childcare, and that many of these industries are staffed predominantly by women workers. As with long-term PEI citizens, women are often in positions of lower pay and higher precarity, but are providing essential services to our community and economy. Council members are worried that women workers will be made more vulnerable to sexual harassment and gender-based violence as a result of changes to immigration policy that mean garnering enough points for Permanent Residency will be a greater challenge. Fewer choices always lead to increased vulnerability.

Our Council also wants to address the myth that housing and healthcare shortages are somehow the fault of migrant workers. This is a false inference that suggests it is these workers who are overburdening our healthcare and housing infrastructure. Migrant workers certainly did not create the nation-wide commodification of shelter that has occurred in recent decades that has left thousands of people in PEI with inadequate housing. And many landlords have benefitted tremendously from rental incomes they received. The construction industry has hired many migrant workers seasonally, to fill glaring gaps and enabled individuals and businesses to build valuable infrastructure. Similarly, countless “Islanders” have received excellent health care and other caregiving services from migrant workers. There are also many local businesses who will not be able to survive without the labour of migrant workers willing to fill upcoming seasonal and tourism-related positions. Positions that are often low-paying, shift and service industry work which is difficult to find people willing to fill.

We understand and support the workers’ demands that:

1. All workers currently on work permits be deemed eligible for provincial nomination and that, if their work permits require extension, they will receive the appropriate support from the Province for their application for work-permit extension.

2. Sales and service sector workers be included in the provincial nomination procedures/protocols.

3. The Expression of Interest process be amended to reduce the emphasis on points and focus more on the experience and commitment to PEI. Workers who began working towards Permanent Residency prior to this transition should be grandfathered in under the previous system.

We must consider what is fair and just. PEI requested additional people come here to provide labour and attend educational institutions. Workers and students responded and agreed to the conditions and expectations that were communicated. They provided valuable and necessary work, paid tuition, and made PEI their home. It is within our capacity to keep the agreements made under the previous immigration policies. Let us be grateful for these workers and students that made that investment and commitment and who want to remain living and working in PEI. Let us choose to allow them to stay and keep contributing to our economy and our communities.

Jane Ledwell
Executive Director, PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women

Hon. Natalie Jameson, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women
Michelle Harris-Genge, Director, Interministerial Women’s Secretariat
Members and staff of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women