Protest in Edmonton day before temporary foreign worker deadline

WATCH ABOVE: Hundreds of temporary foreign workers are packing their bags. As of Wednesday, about 16,000 will no longer have work permits. Fletcher Kent reports.

EDMONTON — Hundreds of temporary foreign workers are preparing to leave Canada because an April 1 federal deadline is forcing them out.

Wednesday is a deadline the Canadian government set in 2011. It means that anyone who has been in the country for more than four years will have their work permit expire April 1. And, unless they can get permanent residency, they must return home.

READ MORE: Canada’s temporary foreign worker program needs to be replaced: CFIB 

Several people from Edmonton’s Filipino community gathered downtown to protest the deadline.

One woman, who runs an employment agency, says eight people left Edmonton Tuesday and that she expects 36 more to fly out Wednesday.

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A TFW advocacy group estimates 16,000 workers will be affected by the deadline.

The Edmonton protesters said the federal decision will amount to an unfair mass deportation.

“My common-law partner will be expired of the permit by May,” said Grizel Marron. “In our situation, we have a baby. So … can Canada give consideration or something?”

READ MORE: Temporary foreign workers program reforms: winners and losers 

“The program itself is fatally flawed,” said Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan. “It’s bad public policy but the people themselves that have come into the country under the policy have done nothing wrong.”

The federal government says there are ways for some of the TFWs to remain in Canada. Some have been allowed to stay while permanent residency applications are heard.

For all others, the government points out this program is about bringing workers here temporarily – leaving was always expected, even if it does prove difficult.

On Wednesday, Canada’s citizenship and immigration minister, Chris Alexander, and employment and social development minister Pierre Poilievre, issued a statement on the expiration of the four-year temporary work permits:

“Employers and foreign workers have known about the four-year time limit since 2011, when this policy was announced.

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Employers have had four years to find alternative employees. Similarly, temporary foreign workers have had four years to pursue pathways to permanent residence.

The purpose of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is exactly that – to be temporary. Canadians rightly expect to get first crack at available jobs.

Temporary workers may wish to explore the many pathways to permanent residency we offer which are now delivered through Express Entry and Provincial Nominee Programs. We encourage foreign workers to apply through these streams so that they can contribute permanently to Canada’s economy and to their communities.

But let there be no mistake: We will not tolerate people going ‘underground.’ Flouting our immigration laws is not an option, and we will deal with offenders swiftly and fairly.

Canadians are welcoming and generous but we need to ensure that we’re putting Canadians first and standing up against potential abuse of our immigration system.”

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