With labour market shortages across the country, the situation is especially acute in the NWT, as the North might not be seen as an attractive a place to live as elsewhere in Canada.

Employers have a hard time filling roles across all skill levels and sectors, with the situation being especially critical in Yellowknife’s hospitality industry.

With jobs aplenty unfilled in kitchens, bars and restaurants in the city, a problem that came to light recently is the onerous process to retain foreign workers once they’re here.

A controversial dismissal of a migrant employee at Copperhouse Eatery and Lounge brought this issue to the fore recently.

Without getting into the weeds of the issue, an apparent dispute over hours and job description resulted in the restaurant’s acting head chef, Niki Mckenzie, being dismissed.

The New Zealander was left with uncertainty on her immigration status, as she took the job as a sous-chef as she was approaching the end date of a two-year holiday work visa which expired June 3.

While that plan might have worked if she and the Copperhouse had been a good fit, it didn’t work out and Yellowknife could lose a valuable asset.

The process for skilled workers just shouldn’t be so complicated.

In 2015, the territorial government set a goal to increase the population of the NWT by 2,000 people by 2019 through in-migration. The territory is falling far short of that goal so far, according to the latest figures from NWT Bureau of Statistics. The population has risen by only 500 people since 2015.

Last year, the GNWT said it was ramping up its nominee program for foreign nationals as part of a new immigration strategy aimed at building a skilled work force and strong economy. Forecasts indicated between 28,500 and 36,700 jobs would open up in the NWT over the next 15 years – 78 per cent of requiring post-secondary education or other extensive experience.

The type of experience someone such as Mckenzie has.

Yellowknifer has reported on many similar cases in the past. For example, in 2016, the head chef and kitchen manager at The Black Knight Pub almost gave up after battling the federal government for Canadian citizenship for four years.

Reginald Drummond was finally successful after getting help from NWT MP Michael McLeod.

The GNWT must work harder to boost immigration to satisfy workforce needs. It also has to work with the federal government to ensure people that do come here aren’t sent home, wrapped in bureaucratic red tape.

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