Hundreds of migrants converge on Ottawa to call for Full and Permanent Immigration Status
Ottawa – As Canada recovers from COVID-19, the migrants who grow food, care for loved ones and provided essential services to our communities during the pandemic are being left behind. On Sunday, they took their message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanding equal rights and protections that are only possible through permanent resident status for all.
“We came here because of promises for peace and a better future, yet, what the majority of us experience is exploitation, mistreatment and racism,” said Abdoul, undocumented migrant from West Africa and member of Solidarity Across Borders who travelled to Ottawa from Montreal, and camped overnight outside the city. “We are coming to express our disappointment with Canada’s immigration policies. We are coming to call for fair treatment, but most of all we are coming to demand status for all.”
Without permanent immigration status, migrants are unable to access basic labour rights or essential services, including healthcare during COVID-19. Many are unable to speak up against abuse and exploitation because of fear of reprisals that can lead to deportation. Carrying photos of migrant farm workers that have died this year, large banners and balloons, the march of hundred of migrants, which included undocumented people, farm workers, care workers, students and refguees, snaked through Ottawa.
Omar Walcott, a Jamaican migrant farm worker and member of migrant group Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, and father of two, traveled to Ottawa from Niagara. “We migrants feed this country and still we live and die in slavery conditions of crowded housing, mistreated by bosses, and separated from our families”, he said. “Even this year alone, 14 of our brothers on the farms have died. So we keep up the fight for equal rights and justice – not only for ourselves but for future generations. We migrants are not afraid, we know we have the power because we are united. Prime Minister Trudeau, we want status for all now!”
Prime Minister Trudeau has repeatedly promised to build a fair society post-pandemic that benefits all people in the country. But while some piece-meal and time-limited programs have been established, most migrants, 1.6 million people (1 in 23 residents), continue to be denied permanent resident status and therefore access to the same rights that protect others in Canada.
“Action on migrants’ demands for full and permanent immigration status is a litmus test of Prime Minister’s Trudeau’s sincerity,” added Sarom Rho, a migrant leader from Migrant Students United based in Toronto. “Canadians are preparing to go to elections but migrants cannot wait, even one day longer of inequality and exploitation is simply not acceptable.
Jhoey Cruz, a Filipino migrant care worker and member of Caregivers Action Centre, was one of dozens of careworkers at the march from across Ontario. “Me and care workers like me are caught between our employers and the immigration system. We work hard everyday, and are desperately missing our families. But we refuse to be stuck anymore. Care workers and migrants are uniting to demand our rights – no more waiting for PR, no more family separation – we want status for all now!”
In 2020, Canada saw a historic shortfall in permanent immigration due to COVID-19 related border closures. As a result, Prime Minister Trudeau’s government turned to short-term, piecemeal programs including the Temporary to Permanent Resident program, and the so-called Guardian Angels healthcare worker program to grant permanent residence to migrants in the country. Less than a 100,000 people will be able to access these “pathways”, which exclude primarily racialized and low-waged migrants.
Migrant Rights Network – Canada’s only cross-country migrant led coalition – is calling for full and permanent immigration status for all migrants now and in the future.
Hady, refugee, father from Mauritania and member of Solidarity Across Borders insists a comprehensive change is needed, “Equal opportunity is a right not a privilege. This is about living with dignity. It is what is owed to us. Status for all is justice for all.”
- There are over 1.6 million migrants (residents without permanent resident status) in Canada, equivalent to 1 in 23 residents.
- As a result many 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 or access services, including those they may be eligible for, because of a well-founded fear of reprisals, termination, eviction and deportation.
- Permanent resident status for all is about equal rights, which is necessary in a fair society.
- Migrant Rights Network is calling for full and permanent immiigration status for all migrants including:
- Undocumented residents: Despite the border being closed, Canada deported more people in 2020 than any of the previous 5 years. Canada also doubled the rejections of Humanitarian and Compassionate applications in 2020, which is the only opportunity for most undocumented residents to access permanent resident status. See: https://migrantrights.ca/hc202rejections/
- Migrant food and farm workers: At least 14 farm workers have died in 2021. COVID-19 outbreaks on farms have revealed the intense labour exploitation, inhumane housing conditions and health and safety risks that farm workers face. See more: https://twitter.com/MWACCanada/status/1399130840928505861
- Migrant care workers: 1 in 3 migrant care workers lost their jobs during COVID-19, and many were not able to access income support. Immigration pathways for migrant childcare workers have been closed arbitrarily for the rest of the year, while over 12,000 care workers with pending applications are stuck in the backlog, in some cases for over 5 years. See: https://migrantrights.ca/bcdrelease/.
- Refugees: Canada closed its borders to refugees in 2020, and significantly reduced processing of asylum applications in the country. See more: https://www.globenewswire.com/en/news-release/2021/06/20/2249890/0/en/Migrants-call-on-PM-Trudeau-to-Unite-Families-Welcome-Migrants-Refugees-on-World-Refugee-Day-Fathers-Day.html
- Migrant students and workers: Migrant students have seen their tuition fees increase dramatically which, accompanied by high unemployment, has caused immense stress and at least six suicides this year, and is resulting in students losing their status in the country.
- The July 25th action follows a week of protests in Montreal led by Solidarity Across Borders.
- Every migrant-led organization in Canada, as well as over 400 civil society organizations, are jointly calling for full and permanent immigration status for all migrants in the country, as well as permanent resident status for all on arrival.
Migrant Rights Network Secretariat, Toronto
416-453-3632 | firstname.lastname@example.org