On March 16, 2020, as the COVID crisis was first hitting, we at the Migrant Rights Network called for healthcare, worker rights, income support, access to social services, and immigration status for migrant and undocumented people.
12 months later, we look back and we look ahead. With you, we vow to keep organizing and fighting for full and permanent immigration status for all.
(1) HEALTHCARE FOR ALL: As COVID-19 raged through 2020, migrants won policies in many provinces to ensure access to healthcare and COVID testing. But in many places these policies are not being implemented and migrants continue to be turned away or charged high fees for life-saving care. Today, we are calling on all provinces and the federal government to put in place concrete measures to ensure safe and dignified access without fear to COVID19 vaccinations.
(2) WORKER PROTECTIONS & INCOME SUPPORTS: As a result of our work, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was extended to migrants, a valid Social Insurance Number was made mandatory part way through 2020 to qualify for the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). Now with tax season approaching, many migrants are scared of a clawback they cannot afford. We demand a CERB/CRB amnesty. Without income support, migrant people either faced starvation and eviction, or were forced to work in dangerous and sometimes deadly conditions. Farmworkers, care workers, delivery workers, cleaners and other low-wage workers are called ‘essential’ even as we are excluded from essential rights and protections. But we take care of us: Migrants fundraised, set up mutual aid networks and stepped in when governments failed us. Migrants stood up against bad bosses, organized strikes and raised our voices. We will continue to organize for justice and equality.
(3) STATUS FOR ALL: Fundamentally, a fair society with equal rights for all requires that everyone have the same immigration status. This is why migrants organized over 30 rallies, protests and marches calling for Full & Permanent Immigration Status for All. In early 2020, the federal government announced a moratorium on deportations because of the pandemic. But the callous practice of deportation continues: by the end of 2020, Canada had deported more people in 2020 than in the previous 5 years. Just this week, a man who contracted COVID while in immigrartion detention was deported despite showing symptoms. Throughout, migrants organized in detention centers, and in Quebec, many secured their own release. Migrant student workers denounced government policies that punished them for the pandemic by letting their permits run out. They won new work permits, a one-time stopgap to the deportation of 52,000 people. But immigration rules continue to exclude low-waged working class people, particularly undocumented workers and those on employer controlled indentureship permits.
(4) SOCIAL SUPPORTS: While some federal, provincial and municipal supports went towards emergency food boxes, it was primarily donations from people like you that allowed migrant groups to feed communities without work. Poor and working class migrants were only able to ward off evictions, get healthcare, childcare or social supports when we united with our neighbors and co-workers to offer real solidarity in the face of deadly policies.
A year into this pandemic, let us re-commit to building a different future together. Talk to your neighbours, friends and co-workers. Raise your voice. Echo and amplify the demands of migrant and undocumented people. Let us build a just world for all of us.