The Coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic has not affected us all equally. Migrant, poor, and racialized communities have been excluded from many response measures while being 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. Groups from across the country call on federal, provincial and municipal leaders to ensure worker & migrant justice is central to the COVID-19 response and recovery. This means:
1. HEALTHCARE FOR ALL:
Even in a pandemic, many people are excluded from basic healthcare. All levels of government must ensure access without fear – regardless of immigration status – to free, universal, and expanded healthcare. This includes no health card and waiting period requirements. The shift to online healthcare has shut out many that do not speak English or French – we need to ensure language and community-specific accessible care.
2. WORKER PROTECTIONS:
Agriculture and food processing are some of the sectors with the largest COVID-19 outbreaks – many of those infected are migrant workers who were exposed in Canada. These workers are unable to refuse unsafe work because of their immigration status. In times of quarantines and closures, the burden of care and cleaning work falls 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. Campus closures have 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 migrant workers; universal income supports regardless of a valid Social Insurance Number, including for migrants unable to come to Canada; permanent wage increases for all essential workers; access to paid emergency leave as needed, with a minimum of 21 days for all workers during pandemics, regardless of immigration status.
3. STATUS FOR ALL:
Lack of permanent immigration status means people are denied healthcare, income support and the ability to assert basic rights. Crisis response and recovery must include permanent resident status for all. Open permits and automatic extensions must be granted swiftly to all migrants in transition, to ensure no one falls out of status because of job loss, school closures and travel restrictions. Canada must also 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. Detention centres are exposed to increased spread of illness but are denied access to quality health care. 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. .
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. Supports should also be directed towards poor and racialized people in the Global South where the worst effects of COVID-19 are being felt
5. THOSE THAT KNOW, LEAD:
The federal government has still not met with migrant organizations despite numerous requests to do so since March 15. Migrant and community organizations must 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 and know what solutions are required to re-tool the immigration system and the economy for the future. We provide a road map out of this crisis, and must be learned from.
Joint statement from Migrant Rights Network Members: Anakbayan – Ottawa, Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network) – Toronto, Caregiver Connections Education and Support Organization -Toronto, Caregivers Action Centre -Toronto, Chinese Canadian National Council – Toronto, Collaborative Network to End Exploitation – Toronto, Committee for Non Status Guineans – Montreal, Cooper Institute and the Prince Edward Island Action Team for Migrant Workers’ Rights, Durham Region Migrant Solidarity Network, FCJ Refugee Centre – Toronto, Fight for $15 and Fairness – Ontario, Fuerza Migrante – Vancouver, GABRIELA Ontario, IAVGO Community Legal Clinic –Toronto, Immigrant Workers Centre – Montreal, Income Security Advocacy Centre – Toronto, Migrant Resource Centre Canada, Migrant Students United – Canada, Migrant Workers Alliance – Niagara, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, Migrant Workers Solidarity Network – Manitoba, Migrante Alberta, Migrante BC, Migrante Canada, Migrante Manitoba, Migrante Ontario, Migrants Resource Centre Canada, No One Is Illegal – Fredericton, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, No One Is Illegal – Halifax, No One Is Illegal – London, Northumberland Community Legal Centre, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrant, OEERC – Toronto, OHIP For All – Toronto, Parkdale Community Legal Services – Toronto, PINAY Quebec, Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (RAMA) – Okanagan region, S4 Collective –Toronto, Sanctuary Health – Vancouver, Solidarity Across Borders – Montreal, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, Together Against Racism and with Migrants Collective – Sherbrooke, UFCW Canada, UNIFOR Canada, Urban Alliance on Race Relations –Toronto, Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights, Workers Action Centre – Toronto and Workers United.
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Endorsed by: 350 Canada, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, Ally Squared, Association of McGill University Support Employees, Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network (ARSN), BC Federation of Labour, Canadian Federation of Students, Canadian Labour Congress, Caring for Social Justice collective, Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity, Coalition Against Bigotry-Pacific, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Council of Canadians, CUPE National, CUPE Ontario, FoodShare Toronto, Greenpeace Canada, Hamilton and District Labour Council, Head & Hands, Hospital Employees’ Union, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, National Union of Public and General Employees, Ontario Federation of Labour, People’s Potato, Project Accompaniment Solidarity with Colombia (PASC), Resource Movement, rice and beans theater, Rights of Non-Status Women Network, SEIU Local 2, Spring Socialists Network, SURJ Toronto, Table des Organismes communautaires Montréalais de lutte contre le sida, UNIFOR, West Coast LEAF