Canada job hopefuls to protest at waiting list cull

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am


Furious Hong Kong and mainland skilled workers waiting for an entry permit will protest today against the Canadian government's proposal to cancel 280,000 applications filed before 2008 as part of a broad revamp.

The workers, who are angry at having waited so long only to discover that it has been futile, plan to protest outside the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong today. Some of them may go on hunger strike.

Of the 280,000 applicants affected by this proposed change, 11,380 are from mainland China and 383 are from Hong Kong. Application fees would be refunded and people have been invited to apply under the proposed new system.

The revamp is part of sweeping changes involving a broad cross-section of legislation proposed in the Budget Implementation Act, which is under review in Canada's Parliament. The revamp, targeting those applying to enter Canada as federal skilled workers, aims to tackle a shortage of workers, which has now been pared down to a list of 29 eligible occupations announced last June. They include chefs, plumbers, industrial electricians, social workers and heavy-duty equipment mechanics.

This will affect people who applied before 2008 - the year it was decided that applicants with more urgently needed skills could jump the queue and be processed quicker.

But some Chinese applicants are furious that their occupation is no longer eligible in the new criteria, and blame the Canadian government for stealing their youth after years of waiting for an approval, while younger and better-qualified applicants are now more desirable.

The Canadian government said that under the new system, applications would be processed within a few months rather than years and would better match employers with suitable skilled workers, while queue-jumping would cease.

At least 20 affected applicants from the mainland will join the protest this morning outside Tower One of Exchange Square in Central - where the Canadian consulate is located. Some plan to go on a hunger strike until Monday. Bei Feng, a spokeswoman for the protesters, said a similar demonstration would be held in India.

Among the protesters is 48-year-old electronics engineer Ng Kam-fai and his accountant wife, Emily Xiang Jin, 41, who applied in 2006 - the year their son was born - so he could attend better schools. They will not be applying under the new system because they say they are now too old and their occupations are not on the government list of eligible jobs.

'We've put our life on hold in the last six years, but it's not even about going to Canada any more - it's about fairness,' said Xiang, demanding that the government put an end to their application by making a decision.

She argues that a refund on the application fees cannot buy back lost time. 'We were going to purchase a home in the New Territories, but decided not to because we could be moving to Canada.

'I work at a Hong Kong-listed company, and was going to be promoted to chief operating officer of the Asia-Pacific region, but declined it to make more time to learn English.'

A spokeswoman from the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong wrote in an e-mailed statement to the South China Morning Post that the 'new processing system is not a luxury, but a necessity if we are to keep pace with our competitors for global talent'.

She referred to New Zealand, which similarly scrapped the backlog of overseas worker applications in 2003 through legislation.

Canada's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said this would effectively combat the phenomenon of qualified doctors and lawyers arriving in Canada, only to end up driving taxis. The proposed bill plans to amend 60 acts and has also irked many Canadians. On Monday, 13,000 website owners there plan to darken their sites in protest over the bill.


This many Hongkongers may have their applications cancelled

- The proposed change affects 11,380 mainlanders