Today, International Migrants Day, is the 5 anniversary of the founding of Migrant Rights Network. Today marks half a decade of historic organizing, mobilizing and winning migrant justice across these lands.
Just days ago, Immigration Minister Marc Miller reiterated the federal government’s commitment to creating a path for permanent resident status for undocumented people, promising “broad and comprehensive” regularization. His announcement came shortly after we exposed Prime Minister Trudeau overseeing 39 deportations a day, costing at least $50 million annually since he pledged the program in December 2021. He has re-made a promise, and we will make sure he keeps it.
Today, we look back at our struggles and our victories over the last five years.
Year 1, 2019: Uniting Against Racism and Winning Rights for Care Workers
We launched on December 18, 2018, with a campaign of relationship building and political education called “Unite Against Racism.” Throughout our first year, we forged ties with labor unions, training hundreds of rank-and-file activists to conduct political education at their workplaces. We collaborated with climate justice movements, hosting dozens of events to deepen ties and build connections. In the lead-up to the October 2019 elections, with concerns about a Trump-styled campaign of xenophobia from the Conservatives, we built a cross-country united front to defeat those ideas.
We achieved significant wins: a special permanent residency program for migrant care workers facing deportation due to unfair requirements; the first permanent residency program for migrant agricultural workers (although it is an exclusionary program that shuts out the majority of workers deemed seasonal), and the first open work permit program for migrant workers facing exploitation.
See more here.
Year 2, 2020: COVID-19 and Launch of Status for All Campaign
2020 was a human rights catastrophe for migrants. We were 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 migrants were excluded from basic healthcare and income support in a pandemic. We grieved as our families around the world suffered the impacts of the coronavirus, exacerbated by vaccine hoarding by countries like Canada.
In 2020, we launched the Status for All campaign, refusing to fight solely for COVID income support, testing, vaccines or emergency changes. Instead, we targeted the root of exploitation: the denial of permanent resident status. While many people “worked from home,” we took to the streets, mobilizing almost every month in massive demonstrations.
See more here.
Year 3, 2021: Winning Permanent Resident Status for Working Class Migrants
In 2021, we won a one-time program for permanent residency for almost 90,000 people, some in low-wage sectors. We refocused on family unity, advocating for migrants to have their families join them. Migrant student workers won a one-time renewal to their post-graduate work permits, preventing the deportation of 52,000 people. We organized a mass march on Ottawa, with thousands traveling from across the country to call for permanent resident status for all. In the lead-up to the 2021 elections, we educated voters on issues and persistently followed Liberal MPs on the campaign trail, demanding immigration justice. Shortly after winning the election, on December 16, 2021, less than 18 months after we had launched our Status for All campaign, Prime Minister Trudeau made a mandate letter commitment to ensure permanent resident status for migrant students, workers, and undocumented people.
Read more about 2021 here.
Year 4, 2022: Regularize Everyone!
In June 2022, we launched the Regularize Everyone campaign, garnering support from over 500 organizations representing 8 million members to our call for a broad and comprehensive regularization program. The Toronto Star editorial endorsed our position. Following massive demonstrations across the country in the fall, a contingent of over 150 undocumented members from across the country met with then-Immigration Minister Sean Fraser. This historic gathering saw migrants, who live in daily fear of deportation, speaking directly to the Minister, unmasked and unafraid. In April 2022, migrant student workers won another renewal of post-graduate work permits, and in April 2022, they won a temporary end to the 20-hour work limit. Jamaican farm workers spoke up about systematic slavery-like conditions on farms, prompting a fact-finding mission from Jamaica to Canada, the first such visit in over 50 years.
In 2023, we secured the right for migrants to study without a study permit and the right for some migrant workers to have their families join them. However, the promised expansion of the program to all low-wage workers never materialized. We also won another extension to post-graduate work permits and an extension of waiving the 20-hour work limit for international student workers. The United Nations rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery came to Canada and reiterated our call for permanent resident status for all. We witnessed a new wave of anti-immigrant hysteria flooding the country, with immigrants being blamed for the housing crisis despite housing prices rising even when Canada closed the border to all migrants and immigrants in 2020. We conducted broad public education pushing back against these lies. As climate change-induced fires struck BC, we supported farmworkers in getting emergency support when all other levels of government failed them.
Other 2023 highlights:
- We organized a massive demonstration at the winter cabinet retreat in Hamilton in January 2023, on March 18 and 19 we organized demonstrations in 7 cities, as Parliament returned in the Fall, we took to the streets in 15 cities as well as UK, France and Spain on September 18 and 19.
- Supreme Court rules that Canada owes a “moral debt” to migrants
- MRN Member Migrant Workers Alliance for Change launched ‘The Secret Menu‘ a guerilla sticker campaign to expose migrant farmworker exploitation