Full and Permanent Immigration Status for All Residents Is Essential to Building an Equal Society Post COVID19
Canada, April 20, 2021 – The 2021 federal budget continues Canada’s trajectory of temporary migration, where the majority of new arrivals each year are on temporary study, work or refugee permits without equal rights or services. $168.3 million dollars has been allocated to paying for the management and the fallout of temporary immigration streams, and almost a billion dollars for border enforcement rather than ensuring full and permanent immigration status for all. The federal budget’s announcement of a childcare program does not ensure permanent resident status on arrival for the tens of thousands of low-waged, racialized migrant women who take care of children. There is no recovery without full equality and that requires full and permanent immigration status for all.
The Trudeau government’s budget announced the following on Im/migration:
- Budget 2021 acknowledges that migrants were responsible for 75% of Canada’s net GDP growth in 2019, but does not ensure equal rights for migrants.
- The Budget re-commits the federal government to recently announced time-limited and exclusionary pathways to permanent residence.
- This program excludes undocumeted migrants, refugees, students in programs less than 2 years long, those that are currently unemployed, those without valid work authorization, those that cannot pass language exams, and those in many essential industries. There are only 90,000 spots for hundreds of thousands of potential applicants who are scrambling to get their applications in order, and pass language tests during the third wave.
- Budget 2021 announces that the Government of Canada intends to propose amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to provide the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada with even more authority to determine who becomes a permanent resident.
- Over the last decade, incredible power has been centralized in the Minister’s hands resulting in the proliferation of so-called Pilot Programs, creating more and more temporary immigration streams and “pathways” to permanent residency that few people can access. It is time to overhaul the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to ensure permanent resident status for all migrants, including on arrival.
- Budget 2021 proposes to provide $656.1 million over five years, beginning in 2021-22, and $123.8 million ongoing, to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to modernize the borders.
- These funds will likely result in increased immigration enforcement, more integration with US Border control but will not ensure oversight of CBSA. Border enforcement will not fight COVID nor heal any wounds of the pandemic – border enforcement only deepens them.
- Budget 2021 proposes to provide $57.6 million in 2021-22 to extend the Mandatory Isolation Support for Temporary Foreign Workers Program to help employers offset costs associated with temporary foreign workers fulfilling isolation requirements upon entering Canada.
- Since the beginning of the pandemic increased subsidies for employers have failed to improve quarantine conditions for migrant workers. Migrant farmworkers report lack of sufficient or appropriate food, illegal deductions from pay, and restrictions on mobility far greater than public health requirements. Migrants need permanent resident status to access and enforce rights.
- $54.9 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, to increase inspections
- ESDC’s inspection program does not give migrant workers the ability to assert their rights. By law, ESDC cannot even share the fact or results of an inspection with the workers whose complaints triggered those inspections in the first place, much less ensure that they are compensated in instances of abuse. Only six employers have been found ineligible through these inspections since the start of COVID-19, despite the wave of massive COVID outbreaks, migrant worker deaths, and worker complaints that occured in the first and second waves of the pandemic.
- $6.3 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, to support faster processing and improved service delivery of open work permits for vulnerable workers
- Most migrants cannot apply for these permits because of onerous application procedures which require access to legal advice and documentation. Open work permits for vulnerable workers are one-time non-renewable permits – they are a band-aid solution that allows some to exit one bad job but then forces workers right back into the system that produced those bad jobs. Tied work permits and temporary immigration status are the problem, not processing.
- Budget 2021 proposes to invest $428.9 million over five years, with $398.5 million in remaining amortization, starting in 2021-22, to develop and deliver a new digital platform for immigration process.
- The problems with the immigration system are not just about technology. Processing backlogs and long wait times are the result of the many unjust and impossible requirements migrants must meet in order to access permanent residency.
- $49.5 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to Employment and Social Development Canada, to support community-based organizations in the provision of migrant worker-centric programs and services, such as on-arrival orientation services and assistance in emergency and at-risk situations, through the new Migrant Worker Support Program.
- This funding aims to provide rights information to migrants without permanent resident status that migrant groups have called a “waste of resources”. But the problem is not that migrants don’t have information about their rights, it’s that they are either excluded from rights or cannot assert those they do have without risking termination and deportation, because of their temporary immigration status.