Press conference, 9am, September 14, 2020. Contact for video.
Syed Hussan, 416-453-3632, email@example.com
Toronto, September 14, 2020 — This morning, as the federal Liberal cabinet meets to set their priorities for the Throne Speech, over 280 organizations that include 8 million people are calling for a fair society with equal rights for migrants. Faith, labour, climate and Indigenous leaders are sending a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau stating, “We call for a single-tier immigration system, where everyone in the country has the same rights. All migrants, refugees and undocumented people in the country must be regularized and given full immigration status now without exception. All migrants arriving in the future must do so with full and permanent immigration status.” The full letter and list of signatories will be released during the press conference.
Migrants in Canada are hit hard by the COVID-19, with many dying and thousands unable to access the emergency care and support that others in Canada have relied on. At least 1,300 farm workers have contracted COVID-19 just in Ontario. The pandemic has revealed the extent to which Canada relies on migrants to grow our food, care for our families, deliver our packages, and support our schools. And yet, while migrants form the backbone of this country, they are relegated to an underclass with substandard rights and precarious status, compounding their hardship. Trudeau has promised “to build back better.” This must include equal rights and full immigration status for migrants.
“For far too long, migrant workers have been denied equal rights in Canada. They have been subjected to recruiter corruption, employer exploitation, poverty wages, treacherous work, harassment, intimidation, discrimination, and threats of deportation. Today, the Labour movement, not only here in Ontario, but across the country, reaffirms this call for full and permanent immigration status for all”, said Patty Coates, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour. The OFL is Canada’s largest provincial labour federation, representing over one million Ontario workers belonging to 54 affiliated unions. Provincial labour federations representing unions in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Northern Territories, Nova Scotia, PEI, Saskatchewan, and Yukon are also signatories to the statement.
The letter initiated by Migrant Rights Network – Canada’s only national migrant-led coalition – highlights how, “Migrants, refugees, and undocumented people want to take care of their families and be active members of their communities. But federal immigration rules tip the scales against them.”
“Canada is the 10th largest contributor to global climate change, which is forcing millions of people from their communities as they flee environmental destruction, conflict driven by increasing resource scarcity, and massive land grabs that give way to huge development projects – including Canadian-owned mining and extractive activities. Migrants who make their way to Canada deserve to live with dignity, respect, and status. The Canadian government can and must make choices now to allow the care and solidarity that are shaping our experience of the present to transform our future,” says Catherine Abreu, Executive Director, Climate Action Network, Canada’s largest climate coalition representing over 100 organizations.
Major environmental organizations including 350.org, The Leap, Council of Canadians, Environmental Defence Canada, Blue Green Canada and Wilderness Committee have also added their voice to the open letter that reads, “Full immigration status for all is an essential step towards eliminating inequalities in the workplace and necessary for a transition to a just and sustainable economy of care.”
“Extraordinary times call for bold action. In taking this step, Canada will not only sustain our population and expand our economy, we will strengthen families, honour essential workers and build cohesive community with our neighbours. Status for all is racial, labour, and social justice—wrapped into one. It just makes good sense,” added Jennifer Henry, Executive Director of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives. KAIROS is Canada’s faith based coalition of 10 churches and religious organizations. The United Church of Canada, Islamic Social Services Association, Loretto Sisters Canada and Office of the National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop are also signatories to the letter.
Over the last 6 months, Migrant Rights Network members have organized over 30 protests for full and permanent immigration status for all. Today’s open letter, signed by organizations representing all sectors of society from across the country, shows that migrants are not alone. The next day of action is on September 20: www.MigrantRights.ca/Sep20.
The letter outlines how, “COVID-19 has exposed deep inequalities in our society. The fault lines are gendered and racialized: the worst impacts are being felt by women and in Indigenous, Black and Brown communities.”
Lindsey Bacigal, Director of Communications for Indigenous Climate Action, a national Indigenous led climate organization, agrees and added, “Migrants and Indigenous Peoples share similar experiences of injustice in so-called Canada. Full and permanent status for all is an important step in rectifying this, while also working towards creating a just and equitable future where our communities can do more than just survive, but we can thrive. Anything less allows for systems of oppression – and those that uphold them – to continue to benefit from the injustices our communities face.”
Mark Hancock, National President, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) added, “Thousands of migrant workers and undocumented people, mainly racialized workers, are doing essential work that supports us all. They’re being exploited because of their immigration status, and that has to stop. CUPE stands with migrant workers in their fight against discrimination, low wages, and dangerous conditions, and calls on the Canadian government to end this unfair and unequal treatment, and ensure all migrants, refugees and undocumented people have the right to live and work in Canada.” CUPE is Canada’s largest union and is a signatory to the letter, along with Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union. United Steelworkers, National Union of Public and General Employees and SEIU Local 2 are among many national and provincial labour signatories.
Other signatories of note include Oxfam, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, ACORN, Leadnow, Canadian Federation of Students, SumofUs and the federal body of immigration and settlement agencies, Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance.