Today is International Migrants Day, 2020.
For us migrants, 2020 has been a human rights catastrophe. We’ve been on the front line of the COVID crisis, doing the lowest paid and most dangerous jobs growing and delivering food, cleaning buildings, and taking care of children and the elderly. At the same time, many of us have been excluded from even basic healthcare and income support in a pandemic. We have grieved as our families around the world have suffered the impacts of the coronavirus. Impacts that worsen as countries like Canada hoard the vaccine, while those in the Global South go without.
2020 is also the year of our courage. In the face of hunger and sickness, together with you, we raised our voices and our fists. This is the year that:
- Immigration detainees in Laval detention centre went on hunger strike till they were released;
- Migrant farmworkers in the face of outbreaks walked off jobs, marched on their bosses, demanded their rights and refused to be silent even when they were fired;
- Migrant care workers refused to be locked up, surveilled and mistreated;
- Migrant students began to organize as migrant workers demanding rights and status;
- Migrant sex workers, undocumented people, and others took action on May 1, June 14, July 4, August 23, September 20, and November 1, unmasked and undeterred by detentions and deportations; and
- We won numerous changes to immigration and border policies to ensure our rights.
The Migrant Rights Network is Canada’s first and only cross-country alliance of racialized migrant-led organizations. In addition to our collective actions focused on federal changes, our nearly 50 member organizations in 10 provinces fought for access to healthcare, social assistance, and worker rights at provincial and municipal levels winning necessary changes. We raised hundreds of thousands dollars to distribute food and essential supplies to migrants struggling in times of COVID-19.
We launched two years ago today. In our founding statement we wrote: “Immigration policies separate us. Government policies polarize and divide us. We are given different rights on the basis of the places of our birth, the colour of our skin, the accents we have, and the bodies we inhabit. We are denied labour protections, decent healthcare, the ability to change jobs, and to be with our families. We reject these categories of migrant, irregular, refugee, undocumented, citizen. We assert our humanity.”
We assert our collective humanity by rejecting the systems of temporary and undocumented migration through which 1 in 23 people in Canada are without basic rights because they don’t have permanent resident status. Status for All has been a call of many of our organizations for decades, but it is only in 2020 that we have consolidated ourselves into a single campaign with the support of over 400 organizations, and 22,000 people. We are not simply calling for immigration reform. Full and permanent immigration status for all is a call for fundamental transformation of our economic and social systems away from profit and exploitation and towards social liberation and care. It is a rejection of war, capitalist exploitation and climate policies that force migrants to leave our homes in the first place.
Despite the myriad crises of 2020, we have succeeded not just in winning changes to laws and taking care of our communities, but many of our organizations have succeeded in deepening democratic leadership and mass participation of migrants in our work. Together, we are organizing our section of the working class. We are doing so in alliance with Indigenous, labour, climate and other movements.
As we end 2020, we urge you to stay organized. Join actions and meetings at work and in your community to build organizations capable of meeting the coming moment. We cannot and will not return to the old normal. Let us make 2021 a year where we build the world we deserve to live in.
Together, we will win!
August 23 – Vancouver
August 23 – Toronto
August 23 – Sudbury
August 23 – Sherbrooke
August 23 – Regina
August 23 – Niagara
August 23 – Montreal
August 23 – Halifax
September 20 – Toronto
September 20 – St Johns
September 20 – Sudbury
September 20 – Vancouver
September 20 – St Catharines
September 20 – Montreal
September 20 – Halifax
September 20 – Hamilton
September 20 – Kelowna
September 20 – Vancouver
November 1 – Montreal
November 1 – Vancouver
November 1 – Toronto
November 1 – Sherbrooke
November 1 – Niagara