He wants to leave his country to work in Canada. Will a music video help?
TORONTO -- A Colombian tradesman determined to provide his children with a better life has gone to unique lengths to attract the attention of Canadian employers amid ongoing violence and gang activity in his home country.
Wilman Antonio “Junior” Guerrero created a music video highlighting his skills as a construction worker in hopes of attracting the attention of a Canadian company who might hire him under the Federal Skill Trades Program.
“I have been dreaming of immigrating to Canada for years; it’s been a long, very difficult, road,” Guerrero told CTVNews.ca by phone from his hometown of Valledupar, Colombia, Sunday.
“The situation in my country isn’t very good… it’s a dangerous place and there are many gangs here who control the villages. I don’t want to see my kids grow up here.”
Shot in the small village where Guerrero and his wife are raising their three young children, the music video and accompanying song act as a musical resume, listing Guerrero’s technical skills and trades experience.
But the song also sheds light on the hardships Guerrero has endured in Colombia, including being kidnapped by armed guerrillas and escaping a training camp for child soldiers.
“It was the most difficult experience I have ever faced in my life. While I was there I saw many horrible things,” Guerrero said.
“I decided I had to escape. I started planning it from the first day I got there… we lost two friends that day.”
Guerrero says he has spent much of his life “on the run,” moving to different villages in hopes of finding a better quality of life. He says that although the government goes to great lengths to show Colombia as a safe country making economic gains, the reality is very different for most Colombians.
In late November, hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets in cities across Colombia calling for the resignation of President Ivan Duque, expressing anger over economic inequality and the government’s mishandling of the historic 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group.
Though the peace accord formally ended five decades of civil conflict that killed 220,000 people, the country has seen a recent uptick in violence.
“I’m always hearing about how Canada needs skilled workers in the construction industry,” said Guerrero, who taught himself English in order to meet entry requirements.
“I thought it would be easier to find a job, but it has been very difficult.”
In Colombia, Guerrero works 55 hours per week and makes the equivalent of CAD$400 a month.
Over the last four years, Guerrero estimates he has sent more than 200 resumes to Canadian companies without any response. He believes his best chance at immigration would be by receiving a job offer and Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) number from a Canadian firm.
A LMIA is a document that some employers in Canada may need to get before hiring a foreign worker, showing that there is a need for a foreign worker to fill the job. It is not an express requirement of the the Federal Skilled Trades Program.
Ravi Jain, chair of the Canadian Bar Association National Immigration Law Section, says that although the Federal Skilled Trades Program was introduced to help people like Guerrero immigrate to Canada, the system creates many limitations for foreign workers.
“There’s a huge shortage of these folks, particularly in construction and trucking,” Jain told CTVNews.ca by phone Monday.
“There are a lot of language requirements… but the other issue is that you need to have a Canadian certification or approval from our department of labour to work in Canada. It’s kind of a catch-22, because in order to get that certification, it requires apprenticeship in Canada.”
Jain is set to travel to Ottawa this week to lobby for changes to the Federal Skilled Trades Program, including lowering the English requirement, increasing the pool selection for skilled trades workers, and allotting more selection factor points, used to assess eligibility, to applicants.
“When the program came out we thought, ‘how is this practical,’ which is why the numbers are so low,” said Jain.
“They are pounding the table saying we need people. Employers here want them, but there is a disconnect right now.”
Guerrero maintains hope that his music video, which has more than 9,000 views on Facebook since it was posted in October, will attract some attention.
“This has been really complicated, but I never give up. I’m at a point where I can’t give up, for me or for my kids,” he said.