Immigration protest on P.E.I. could turn into hunger strike, organizer warns


Group to meet Tuesday with minister of workforce, advanced learning and population

Some immigrant workers are prepared to go on a hunger strike if the P.E.I. government doesn't reverse some recent changes to who gets preference under the Provincial Nominee Program, says one of the people behind the daily protests in Charlottetown.

Rupinder Pal Singh said they are giving the province until May 16 to meet their demands, which include extending work permits for immigrants who are already here, working and hoping for permanent residency.

"Our province gave us false hopes," said Singh, who came to Canada from India in 2019.

"They were giving us wrong information. This is totally an exploitation."

P.E.I.'s Department of Workforce, Advanced Learning and Population said a meeting is scheduled for Tuesday between Minister Jenn Redmond and organizers of the protest to "hear their concerns."

Singh warned that the "clock is ticking" with regard to the call for changes.

"If any of our demands are not fulfilled by 16th of May, [if] we are not grandfathered, we are going to give this protest another name. This will be hunger strike to death," said Singh. 

"We are losing our work permits. There are no other places for us to go."

Change to numbers and job categories

In February, the P.E.I. government announced it would cut the number of people from other countries that it nominates for permanent residency in Canada through the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). The number of nominees will fall by 25 per cent in 2024, partly as a result of pressure on P.E.I.'s health-care system and housing market.

The province's new population strategy specified that of the spots that remained, people who work in specific occupations including health care and construction would be given priority.

That means hundreds of immigrants in other industries, such as retail sales and service, may not have their work permits extended when they run out in the next few months.

The province has said the changes to the immigration system are only temporary, but didn't give specifics on the timeline.

"I didn't come here to ruin my life or to ruin my future," said protester Jaspreet Singh Sivia.

"I came with great hopes over here that Canada is a successful country. I would be able to succeed and make my life better, much better here. But since these changes, my life have not been progressing towards that way and it's quite the opposite picture that I'm seeing here."

The protests on the sidewalks near P.E.I. government buildings began on May 9 with about 25 people holding handmade signs. It grew to more than 300 people on Monday.

Jaspreet Singh Sivia said many people have been honking their horns in support, and many employers have also been supportive because their businesses have been affected.

"We are very happy our community is standing with us. We would also like to request our other Black and white brothers and sisters from other communities to join as well, because there's nothing unfair we are demanding…

"The other minorities can take a stand for us and we can back up them, as well."

Immigration protest on P.E.I. could turn into hunger strike, organizer warns | CBC News