CANADA, April 14, 2021 — Migrant Rights Network is calling on the federal government to ensure that all migrant and undocumented people in Canada are granted permanent resident status without exception, and that all working class migrants are able to arrive in the future with permanent resident status. Today’s announcement opens up a short-term window for thousands of migrants who are able to meet restrictive criteria, but keeps the fundamentals of the temporary immigration system intact where hundreds of thousands are exploited.
“Migrants bravely spoke up about injustice and forced the federal government to acknowledge that permanent resident status is necessary to be able to access or assert basic rights,” says Syed Hussan, executive director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change based in Ontario. “Today’s announcement is a start, but without fundamental change through granting full and permanent immigration status for all, it will simply not be enough.”
Over 650,000 temporary work and study permits were issued in 2020, and there are over 1.6 million migrant and undocumented people in Canada. Temporary status means not having equal access to rights and services. Some temporary work programs tie workers to employers, creating a massive power imbalance that makes it impossible for workers to assert basic workplace rights – the abuse faced by farm workers and care workers in COVID-19 provides well documented proof. Study and work permit holders are often unable to access basic healthcare or income supports in times of emergency, and face labour exploitation because of limits on where and how much they can work.
“Undocumented people like me work on the frontlines in long-term care homes, caring for the sick and the elderly, and in many other essential jobs, why are we being excluded?” asked Lily, a member of Caregivers Action Centre. “Without permanent resident status, we are shut out of healthcare, even the COVID19 vaccine, we can’t defend ourselves against bad bosses, and we live in constant fear of detention and deportation”.
Marisol B. from Migrante Canada agreed. “For us undocumented migrant workers, we know that our work is truly essential. So it is disappointing to see that in this announcement we are excluded. When the government does not address the temporary migrant workers program’s fundamental issue, these changes, although welcomed, indeed fall short of the aspirations of ALL migrant workers and advocates. It simply reinforces the existing neoliberal agenda within the Canadian immigration system.”
The only path for permanent resident status for undocumented people is the Humanitarian and Compassionate application, but in 2020, the acceptance rate for these applications dropped to 37% from 65% in 2019. Canada also deported more people in 2020 than in any year since 2015 despite the federal government assurances that it was unsafe and inhumane to deport people during a global pandemic.
“For the first time, some seasonal agricultural workers may have a path to permanent resident status, but the requirement for passing a high level English test excludes the majority of us. This is discrimination. They call us essential, but they continue to exclude us. We demand status for all,” said Gabriel Flores, a member of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and a Mexican seasonal agricultural worker who was unjustly fired in 2020 for speaking out about the conditions that caused a massive COVID-19 outbreak that took the life of his co-worker Juan Lopez Chaparro.
- National: Karen Cocq, Migrant Rights Network, 647-970-8464
- Alberta: Marco Luciano, 780-966-5908
- Atlantic: Stacey Gomez, 902-9994458 & Fallon Mawhinney, 9029165510
- British Columbia: Byron Cruz, 604-315-7725
- Quebec: Hady, 514-358-8836