We call for permanent resident status for all and an end to deportations.
Canada, January 20, 2023 – Migrant Rights Network – Canada’s largest migrant-led coalition – is reiterating its call for an uncapped and inclusive regularization program that ensures permanent resident status for all 500,000 undocumented people and their families in response to today’s announcement that provides an extremely difficult path to permanent residency to just 500 undocumented construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area. Migrant Rights Network will be demonstrating in support of equality and fairness for all outside the winter Cabinet retreat on Monday, January 23, 2023, at 12pm in Hamilton, Ontario.
Byron Cruz, organizer with Sanctuary Health in Vancouver says, “This announcement from the federal government definitely does not respond to the demands of the undocumented communities across the country. We urgently need a cross-country immigration regularization program, inclusive for all. Enough is enough we do not want migrants to be detained or to die in immigration prisons.”
Prime Minister Trudeau promised a regularization program on December 16, 2021. Without it, many continue to suffer. An as yet unnamed undocumented migrant died in immigration custody in Surrey, BC on Christmas Day. Fritznel Richard died a few days later in Quebec while crossing the border back to the US after being unable to get a work permit in Canada.
Yonnel Destin, an undocumented spokesperson for the Montreal based Solidarity Across Borders, added, “This program is completely insufficient. Undocumented people live all over Canada, and work in all kinds of industries. While they’re playing around with pilot programs, we live in fear of detention and deportation. Where is the full regularization programme we’ve been promised? We don’t need yet another completely inadequate program that entirely fails to recognize that I am equal to everyone else in this country.”
The announcement today is an extension of a public policy first launched in January 2020 and ran for three years, in which time only 500 applications were processed because of exclusionary requirements. Only those who are related to a Canadian citizen or permanent resident are allowed to apply. Among other requirements, applicants must also prove that they have been living in Canada for five years and that they have been working in specific jobs in construction for at least 4,680 hours – both of which requires documentation from landlords, and employers that puts them at greater risk of exploitation.
Marco Luciano, Director, Migrante Alberta, based in Edmonton, added, “Today’s announcement is disappointing. It does not address the fundamental issue of undocumented migrants. Piecemeal regularization is not the solution. We demand an inclusive regularization program without caps and for all sectors. We must end the inhumane deportation and detention of migrants.”
Every migrant-led organization in Canada, as well as over 480 civil society organizations, have jointly called for full and permanent immigration status for all migrants in the country, as well as permanent resident status for all on arrival in future. 25,000 people have sent messages to Ministers over the last few months.
Nina Gonzalez, undocumented organizer with the Immigrant Workers Centre in Montreal says. “It might be good news for the undocumented people working in construction in the Greater Toronto Area who can qualify, but it gives again a sense of exclusion to all the migrant construction workers who work in the rest of Canada and other migrants who are not working in the construction sector. We need an inclusive and predictable regularization program based on universal human rights, applied to all over Canada regardless of occupation, work experience or other unfair requirements.”
“Every person that gets status means one more person included in the family of rights, so today’s announcement means that potentially 500 racialized, working class people will have the power to protect themselves and be with their families; now we need a regularization program for the 499,500 undocumented migrants and their families and 1.2 million migrants on temporary status that are being shut out of equal rights,” said Syed Hussan, Executive Director, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.
- Migrant Rights Network proposal for regularization: https://migrantrights.ca/resources/regularization-in-canada/
- Comprehensive regularization (a program that includes all 500,000 undocumented people without caps or exclusions) will address a historic wrong; improve working conditions by giving migrants the power to protect themselves; guarantee public health; and add at least $1.1 billion dollars to the public purse through contributions by employers who currently don’t pay taxes.
- While statistics have not been released, migrant organizations have all reported a sharp increase in detentions and deportations in 2022. In fiscal year 2020-2021, Canada deported an average of 31 people each day. An undocumented migrant died in Surrey immigration prison on Christmas Day.
- 2022 is set to become the year with the highest number of temporary work and study permits, without any increase in access to permanent rights for low-waged migrants. Over 853,000 work and study permits were issued January – September, 2022.
- There are at least 1.2 million people in Canada on temporary work, study or refugee claimant permits issued in Canada each year. Those in low-waged work in particular have no access to permanent residency so eventually they are forced to either leave or stay in the country undocumented. As a result, there are over 500,000 undocumented people in the country.
- That is, there are at least 1.7 million migrants – 1 in 23 residents in Canada – who do not have equal rights.
- Migrants are excluded from healthcare and social services and cannot unite with their families. Lack of permanent resident status makes it difficult, and often impossible, for migrants to speak up for their rights at work or access services, including those they may be eligible for, because of a well-founded fear of reprisals, termination, eviction and deportation.
- Migrants – mostly low-waged, racialized, working class people – are deemed essential but are excluded from rights. Thousands of migrants lost their lives and livelihoods in COVID-19 while working in farms, long-term care homes, construction, cleaning, and delivery work.
Syed Hussan, 416-453-3632, Migrant Rights Network Secretariat