Canada is seeing a rise in Coronavirus / COVID-19 cases, accompanied by growing levels of xenophobia and racism. Crises do not affect us all equally – migrant, poor, and racialized communities will be the first excluded from response measures and the worst affected by the economic downturn. We must demand collective responses that leave no one behind, including migrant workers, undocumented people, low-waged students, poor people, and refugees. Pandemics know no borders, neither should our solidarity. We call on individuals and organizations across the country to join us in uniting against racism. Groups from across the country (scroll below for list and to endorse) call on federal, provincial and municipal leaders to ensure worker & migrant Justice as part of the COVID-19 response. We all need:
1. HEALTHCARE FOR ALL:
Access without fear – regardless of immigration status – to free, universal, and expanded healthcare, including testing. This includes migrant workers who must travel here to work and may face quarantine periods. Remove health card and waiting period requirements. Enforce clear and precise guidelines to ensure language and community-specific accessible care. All forms of medical repatriation (deportation) and denial of immigration status on the basis of health status must end.
2. WORKER PROTECTIONS:
In times of quarantines and closures of schools and community spaces, the burden of care and cleaning work will fall disproportionately to migrant and racialized women. Most migrant and undocumented workers don’t have access to paid sick leave and face reprisals for taking even unpaid sick days. Employment Insurance excludes most low wage migrants either explicitly, or because of administrative criteria. Campus closures will hit international students the hardest because they rely on on-campus work and housing to survive. Most migrant workers don’t receive adequate protective gear. Measures enacted to protect workers must include: strong anti-reprisal protections for workers taking time off; income supports and open work permits for migrants who will lose wages or jobs because of sickness, quarantine or economic downturn, including those who must travel here to work; increased access to EI including special benefits; a federal emergency fund to provide non-repayable allowance for those experiencing a loss or interruption of earnings including those outside Canada; and access to paid emergency leave as needed, with a minimum of 21 days for all workers, regardless of immigration status.
3. STOP DETENTIONS & DEPORTATIONS, STATUS FOR ALL:
Enact an immediate moratorium on all immigration enforcement (detentions and deportations). Continued detentions and deportations will scare people away from the healthcare they need and separate people from their social support networks. Emergency measures are further limiting access to justice for migrants. Financial resources currently allocated to immigration enforcement must be redirected to emergency relief efforts and essential services. People detained in prisons and detention centres are exposed to increased spread of illness but are denied access to quality health care. They must be released. While non-essential travel is discouraged, border closures have real consequences – families need to reunite, many need humanitarian assistance, and workers’ livelihoods depend on being able to travel. We cannot allow this crisis to be used to further the racist and xenophobic border policies. Work permit and permanent resident status rules must be relaxed or removed, and open permits granted swiftly to workers in transition, to ensure no one falls out of status because of job loss, school closures and travel restrictions. We need permanent resident status for all.
4. SUPPORT THE COMMUNITY:
Community supports such as food banks, emergency shelters and other services are essential for poor, disabled, Indigenous and other marginalized communities, as well as migrants and non-status people and their families. These supports are already at a breaking point – immediate increased funding to expand these services must be a first priority. Migrant and non-status families and other excluded groups must be granted access to housing, shelter, universal child care, food, and other basic protections freely without economic barriers, or fear of immigration enforcement. Clear policies and mechanisms must be created to stop the rise of xenophobia and racism. Communications about crisis response measures, including income support, must be made accessible to communities whose first languages are not English or French.
5. THOSE THAT KNOW, LEAD:
Migrant and community organizations should be included in planning and implementation of the current response to ensure that no one is left behind. Migrant and undocumented workers, and their supporters, have long relied on and built effective mutual aid networks. They provide a road map out of this crisis, and must be learned from.
Joint statement from Migrant Rights Network Members: Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network), Caregivers’ Action Centre, Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto, Centre des travailleuses et travailleurs immigrants, Collaborative Network to End Exploitation, Cooper Institute/PEI Action Team, Fuerza Migrante Vancouver, Migrant Students United, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change*, Migrante Alberta, Migrante BC, Migrante Canada, Migrante Manitoba, Migrante Ontario, Migrant Workers Alliance – Niagara, No One Is Illegal – HalifaxNo One Is Illegal – London, No One Is Illegal – Vancouver, OHIP For All, Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture, Sanctuary Health, Solidarity Across Borders, Vancouver Committee for Domestic Worker and Caregiver Rights, Workers Action Centre. *Migrant Workers Alliance for Change includes Asian Community Aids Services, Durham Region Migrant Solidarity Network, FCJ Refugee House, GABRIELA Ontario, IAVGO Community Legal Clinic, Income Security Advocacy Centre, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Northumberland Community Legal Centre, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, PCLS Community Legal Clinic, SALCO Community Legal Clinic, UFCW, and Workers United, as well as a number of organizations listed as separate signatories in this list.
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Endorsed by: Canadian Labour Congress, CUPE National, Ontario Federation of Labour, CUPE Ontario, UNIFOR, Millennial Womxn in Policy, Rights of Non-Status Women Network, SURJ Toronto, Canadian Federation of Students, Spring Socialists Network, FoodShare Toronto, Council of Canadians, Coalition Against Bigotry-Pacific, People’s Potato, 350 Canada, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, Head & Hands, Resource Movement, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, BC Federation of Labour, West Coast LEAF, Hospital Employees’ Union.