Migrants, including undocumented people, call for transformation of immigration system to ensure rights, dignity and permanent resident status for all
Download Exclusion, Disappointment, Chaos & Exploitations: Canada’s New Short-Term Immigration Pathway: HERE
Canada – Survey results released today reveal that 45.4% of migrant workers and 34.5% of international graduates are excluded from the new short-term immigration program scheduled to be launched this Thursday. Out of 3,000 survey responses, an additional 48.27% of international graduates and 45.4% of migrant workers do not have the language test results required to apply for this first-come, first-served program. In total, 1.18 million undocumented residents, refugees, students and migrants in Quebec are not allowed to apply. The Migrant Rights Network, Canada’s largest migrant-led coalition, is releasing an analysis of the survey results today, entitled “Exclusion, Disappointment, Chaos & Exploitation: Canada’s New Short-Term Immigration Pathway”, and calling for full and permanent immigration status for all.
“Prime Minister Trudeau has the opportunity of a lifetime to change the course of Canada’s economy while ensuring equal rights for all,” says Syed Hussan of the Migrant Rights Network secretariat. “We don’t need small, one-off, exclusionary pilot programs, we need an overhaul of the immigration system so that every resident in the country has the same immigration status and therefore the same access to labour rights, healthcare, and other essential services. These rights are a matter of life and death.” The Migrant Rights Network is aware of at least half a dozen migrant farmworkers that have died this year, as well half a dozen International Students that have died by suicide due to financial and immigration pressures. This new program excludes migrants like these.
The temporary public policy was announced on April 14th and excludes most migrants, many of whom are in essential jobs or caring for their communities, and are denied universal healthcare, labour rights and emergency support because they do not have permanent residency.
“During this pandemic, millions of people without status have risked their lives to serve you and keep the Canadian economy rolling. Why does the government not put in place a regularization program for everyone?,” says Samira, living without status with her mother in Montreal for eight years. “It’s revolting how all these new laws ignore us, like we didn’t exist. We are here and we will continue to struggle.”
Applications through the program are capped at 90,000 spots but there are more than 461,470 migrants who may be eligible to apply. To apply, they must be employed, be currently in Canada, have a valid English test result, and have all their documents at the time of application. This costs thousands of dollars.
English or French language requirements exclude many, including the majority of Spanish speaking migrant farm workers who have been so hard-hit by COVID-19. Gary, a chicken catcher in Ontario who has been working in Canada for 8 years, says, “Many of us have taught ourselves English to get by while working in Canada but cannot write or read it. I am excluded from the government’s PR program because I cannot pass the English test. That is not fair – we have built lives here, and we have missed out on our lives with our families. We cannot stand up for our rights because the employers always threaten us saying they won’t renew our contracts or will deport us. This is why we need permanent residency with no requirements like English exams, to be able to protect ourselves and defend our rights. We demand status for all.”
Within hours of the program’s announcement on April 14th, the websites of the English testing centres crashed. Few spots are available now, and some migrants, particularly farmworkers and domestic workers, are unable to leave farms or employer-provided housing, to go to take a test. Others are not allowed time off to study, or to take the test. Others are not allowed time off to study or to take the test. Testing centres are only available in major cities, and travel from rural communities during COVID-19 is either dangerous or simply impossible because of lockdown measures.
25.4% of the survey respondents in the Essential Workers stream did not meet either the 12 months of work required in the previous 36 months or did have an approved NOC Code despite working in essential jobs. This is because workers earned this work experience while between work permits and cannot count it. In addition, 13.7% of survey respondents in this stream report not having a valid work authorization – this is largely temporary foreign workers who lost jobs during COVID-19 and are not legally allowed to work elsewhere because of their employer-restricted work permits.
“I struggled to find a new employer to sponsor me so I could get the last 3 months of work I needed to meet the 24 month work requirement under the Home Child Care Provider Pilot and be able to apply for PR. Just last week, the cap in that program was reached. Another door has been closed for me and care workers like me. And I can’t qualify for this new program without a job,” says Cherrian Snagg, a migrant care worker, was fired when she got sick during COVID, and lost her housing, healthcare, income, and legal right to work because she is on an employer-restricted permit. “Without permanent residency status, you are pushed around – by employers and by the government. This is discrimination and exploitation. I join with my fellow migrants to demand status for all now.”
13.6% of survey respondents in the International Graduate stream and 6.3% of survey respondents in the Essential Workers stream do not currently have a job, which is a requirement for the program. This has made workers scramble to take any job, at any wage to qualify for this program. Those on employer-restricted permits who were laid off or left bad employers are being forced to return to them so they can qualify. Migrants on any kind of leave from their current job, paid or unpaid, must return to work to qualify, including anyone on caregiver leave or taking unpaid sick time to quarantine for COVID-19.
The report also details migrants facing chaos and exploitation as a result of high fees, being stuck abroad and not being able to travel, and difficulty in getting documents in time.
In the report, the Migrant Rights Network is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “ensure permanent resident status for all migrant and undocumented people in the country, and ensure that all working class migrants that arrive in the future do so with permanent resident status. The current program must be expanded to include everyone without permanent status; all caps and the 6-month window must be removed; residents of Quebec must be allowed to apply; and requirements for an English language test, educational credentials, current employment, and valid immigration status must be removed. Any other inadmissibility requirements must also be removed, and the application fees waived for low-wage workers.” Over 450 organizations and tens of thousands of people have signed a petition calling for the same: www.StatusforAll.ca
Migrant Rights Network members will be organizing actions on May 9th – Mothers Day – to continue the call for Status for All in Montreal (2pm, Riding Office of Justin Trudeau 1100 Crémazie East), Vancouver (11am, MP Harjit Sajjan’s constituency office, 6406 Victoria Drive). More cities will be announced.