Alberta opens path to religious migrants

An Alberta government Facebook ad publicizes Alberta’s program for welcoming religious workers. (Facebook image - CCN)

Program lifts roadblocks to religious workers

By Quinton Amundson, The Catholic Register

The Government of Alberta is expanding its provincial immigration program to invite more religious workers from abroad to seek or obtain permanent residency.

Outgoing Premier Jason Kenney stated in a release that this plan will enrich the spiritual health of Alberta society.

“Religious faith is a central part of the lives of huge numbers of Albertans,” said Kenney, who stepped down as Alberta’s premier Oct. 6. “The spiritual health of our society is enlivened by diverse faith communities, all of whom share a commitment to serving the common good, particularly the most vulnerable. The worship of many faith communities depends on clergy and religious workers from overseas, but until now there has been no clear pathway for religious workers to obtain residency in Alberta.”

There is currently no clear pathway for clergy and religious workers to seek or obtain permanent residency in Alberta, with religious workers who have developed ties to their community having to leave the country when temprary residency permits expire.

Under the umbrella of the federal-provincial Alberta Advantage Immigration Program, the government has established three residency pathways.

Option one is the Alberta Opportunity Stream, designated for temporary foreign workers already living in Alberta who receive a full-time job offer from their employer. Pathway two is the Rural Renewal Stream for immigrants who get invited to work in an Albertan rural community.

Application route three, Alberta Express Entry Stream, enables the province to nominate candidates from the federal entry system who may have demonstrably strong ties to Alberta, or intend to work in an occupation that bolsters the province’s economy.

Roy Dallmann, a press secretary for Alberta’s Minister of Labour and Immigration Kaycee Madu, told The Catholic Register in an email that the previous immigration roadblocks to religious workers was “raised in numerous conversations we’ve had with community stakeholders across Alberta.”

He said the government does not have any numerical projections as to how many religious workers may access these new pathways in the next few months or years. But Dallmann said, “this is an issue of fairness and inclusiveness to recognize that religious workers are important skilled workers in Alberta.”

“In order to be a welcoming and supportive province for newcomers, we need to ensure that the necessary faith supports are in place to support Alberta’s cultural communities,” he said.

This new plan also helps the province realize objectives outlined in Alberta’s Anti-Racism Action Plan, said Dallmann.

“This commitment includes ensuring Albertans have equal access to information and service and empowering communities to promote inclusion, diversity, multiculturalism and social connection. As many of Alberta’s cultural communities rely on spiritual leadership to build social connections and to prepare for future challenges, making it easier for religious workers to come to Alberta is an important step to recognize the needs of immigrants and to help them make a home in our province.”

According to data compiled by the Statista Research Department in October 2021, the number of immigrants arriving in Alberta annually has been declining since a record high 57,841 migrants came to the province between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016. In 2018-19 — the most recent period not affected by the pandemic — the figure was 40,732.

The new program aligns Alberta with other provinces which allow religious workers to apply under their immigration programs.