P.E.I. immigrants resume hunger strike

Province should have given immigrants notice earlier, claims immigration consultant

P.E.I. immigrants resume hunger strike

Foreign workers in Prince Edward Island have resumed their hunger strike in opposition to the province’s plans to reduce the number of workers it is nominating for permanent residency this year.

But had the province handled things differently, these workers would not be putting their health at risk, claimed one regulated Canadian immigration consultant.

On Tuesday, the workers stopped eating once more as neither the provincial government nor immigration officials offered them a reasonable solution to their worries, according to a report from The Canadian Press.

The workers started their hunger strike on May 23 as they demanded that they be eligible to obtain permanent residency under the immigration rules that were in place when they arrived on the Island, according to the report.

On May 31, a government official met with them and asked them to start eating again. The official also took a list of names of the roughly 250 workers who were affected by the changes, and that inspired hope for the workers.

However, "there has been no communication at all." said Jaspreet Singh, one of the protesters. 

"They haven't provided any solution, just excuses,” he said in the CP report published on CTV News.

Lengthy hunger strikes can lead to blindness and even death, according to the report.

In February, P.E.I. announced it would reduce its use of the allotted annual federal immigration nominations under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) by 25 per cent for 2024 to “relieve further pressures on public services and infrastructure”.

That means that, for this year, P.E.I. plans to nominate about 1,600 immigrants for permanent residency, down from 2,100 last year. 

The province should have announced its planned changes much earlier, said Sahil Sayal, the immigration consultant, according to the CP report.

Had they been given ample time, the immigrants could have sought credentials in a different field to make them more attractive for nomination, or they could have moved to a different province where an immigration pathway would be easier, Sayal said.

In May, Jenn Redmond, P.E.I.'s minister of workforce, advanced learning and population, said that immigrants in the province whose work permits are set to expire in 2025 should consider signing up for a training program for in-demand occupations in the island.

P.E.I.’s Occupations in Demand stream is available to immigrants who have a full-time, non-seasonal permanent job offer from a PEI employer in one of the following lines of work.

Now, Sayal wants the provincial government to give the immigrants more time to boost their eligibility, according to the report.

"I think the best way would be to give these guys at least one or two years of work permit extension," he said. "It would give them a chance to build their eligibility."