By Senaka Samarasinghe
Since Jan. 2023, the Hon. Jon Reyes has served as Minister of Labour and Immigration. He was formerly Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration, and, in 2021, he was appointed Minister of Economic Development and Jobs. From 2016 to 2021, Jon was the Special Envoy for Military Affairs for the Province of Manitoba.
Because of his current role, Sri Lankan Seniors Manitoba board member Felix proposed at the last board meeting that we meet with the Minister to discuss manpower requirements in Manitoba. Indra, the President of SLSM, nominated Felix, Daya, Upali and Senaka. We obtained an appointment with Jon for the morning of Monday, March 27, 2023, at his constituency office located on Pembina Highway in Winnipeg.
Upali said that he will keep the minutes of the meeting for SLSM. Felix expressed that his task was to inquire about the type of immigration information required for 2023. Daya explained that his responsibility was to collect required manpower data from Sri Lanka. He stated that he will arrange to obtain the information through the Sri Lanka High Commissioner’s Office in Ottawa. Senaka said that he will do a summary of the meeting.
Jon said that one of the major pathways is the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program, a highly successful program that was created by a Progressive Conservative government in 1998. Applicants can apply online. The maximum overall points is 1000 points. However, applicants are often selected with points between 600 and 700. Under this program, annual allocations are determined by the federal government for each province. For 2023, allocations were higher than in 2022. Manitoba received 9,500 allocations for 2023, which is a 50% increase from 6,367 for 2022. Jon promised to provide necessary information continuously to SLSM from his office and encouraged us to visit immigratemanitoba.com for up-to-date information.
Senaka informed the minister that Sri Lanka’s main foreign currency earner comes from the workers’ remittances. The High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Canada, Mr. Harsha Kumara Navaratne, is conducting discussions with the Canadian government on how to respond in a small way to the annual huge demand in areas such as caregivers and nurses. Jon therefore recommended that SLSM look for the possibilities not only with the provincial government but also with the federal government.
All of us thanked Jon for his valuable time for SLSM, a period where Sri Lanka is undergoing acute problem of foreign exchange deficiency. If SLSM can pave the way for employment opportunities to Sri Lankans, that will help to improve the current foreign exchange crisis. Further, Manitoba will benefit from accessibility to manpower. In brief, this intervention will be a mutually beneficial venture in both the short and long terms.
Thank you, Hon. Jon Reyes, for meeting with us.