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Northern communities want a permanent foreign worker immigration program, sources say

As the health care field struggles to fill positions, the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program has proven to be a lifeline, according to the Timmins and District Hospital.

Human resources manager Mike Resetar said the program has been an efficient way to address some of the hospital’s staffing shortages.

Mike Resetar, Human resources manager at Timmins and District Hospital. June 1/23 (Sergio Arangio/CTV Northern Ontario)

"We've been able to [hire] a number of roles […] with physicians, nursing positions, personal support workers, as well as support staff," Resetar said.

"The availability of these individuals looking for work is great."

Rasetar said the program is painless from his end and makes a foreign worker's Canadian dream easier to achieve.

Local program coordinator Bailey Campbell, with the Timmins Economic Development Corporation (TEDC), said there have been hundreds of success stories since its launch in 2019.

"Since the beginning of the pilot, we've recommended 352 candidates," Campbell said.

"That's 352 jobs in the community that are being filled by skilled foreign workers and, in addition, family members that are coming and accompanying them."

The pilot program was revised last year to broaden its reach, among other items and is set to expire in 2024.

Timmins Mayor Michelle Boileau joined other northern politicians in calling on federal immigration minister Sean Fraser to make it permanent.

Boileau said there's more awareness of and interest in the program now, plus applicants are better able to take advantage, with COVID-19 travel restrictions dropped.

"We've actually been able to, through this program, attract talent into positions that were going unfilled for years and years and years, and things that are quite specialized," Boileau said.

"It would be such a shame to have to sunset the program by this year's end when we've really gotten into the groove of things."

The immigration minister's office issued a statement to CTV News, noting Fraser’s belief in the program and desire to fix any issues.

"The benefits of the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot are undeniable," the statement reads.

"Minister Fraser has spoken with those directly impacted by this program and has heard how it not only meets crucial labour demands but is also strengthening communities. We will continue to work on this and will have more to share soon."

Campbell said it's a matter of identifying any other flaws and gaps and gathering input from employers, employees and prospective applicants.

The TEDC is gathering letters of support from stakeholders, she said, as well as signatures for an online petition.

Officials said the goal is to both address immediate job market demand and prepare for an eventual exodus of soon-to-be retirees. Top Stories

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