Canada, February 24, 2021 — The Migrant Rights Network along with leading doctors, health policy experts, and labour leaders, is calling for immediate action to ensure that all migrant and undocumented residents of Canada are able to be vaccinated. A letter signed by 270 organizations outlines specific measures that must be implemented in order to make government assurances about universal vaccine access a reality. For the COVID vaccine to be accessible to migrants in a safe and non-coercive manner, the following must be implemented:
- Vaccination must be provided free of charge;
- Vaccination must not require a health card or health coverage;
- Names, addresses or other identifying information should not be required for vaccination because migrant and undocumented people are fearful of sharing this information;
- No ID information should be shared with federal immigration enforcement;
- Vaccine must be accessible (in rural communities, to those who don’t speak English or French, don’t have access to a computer, telephone, etc);
- COVID-19 vaccination should not be coercive or mandatory. To protect against this, anti-reprisal protections and permanent resident status must be ensured for migrants that speak up about workplace issues;
- Vaccine providers must be trained so that they don’t turn away people who don’t have health coverage or are fearful of sharing their ID;
- Anti-racist public education is necessary to address vaccine hesitancy. Migrants have well-founded reasons to distrust medical systems because of histories of violence and coercion;
- Universal healthcare for all; and
- Full and permanent immigration status for all.
“I am on the frontlines everyday just like everyone else who lives and works in the home but while they are now better protected from the virus, I am not. Undocumented workers are already denied access to healthcare, housing, social services and legal rights. Now we are being denied the COVID vaccine. But undocumented workers make up part of Canadian society and this needs to be acknowledged by the government. The vaccine should be a basic human right for all who live here. All migrants deserve permanent status so that we can have equal rights and protections and be reunited with our families.” – Lily, an undocumented worker at a Long-Term Care facility in Toronto, who was denied the COVID vaccine, member of Caregivers Action Centre
“Migrant and undocumented people are at the forefront of the COVID crisis and deserve safe and dignified access to the COVID vaccine. Hundreds have told us they are afraid that if they get the vaccine their information will be handed over to immigration enforcement, or that employers will use the vaccine to coerce them. We call on the federal government to give full and permanent immigrations status to all migrant and undocumented people immediately, so that migrants can access the protection they need. We also call on the provinces to ensure universal health care for all not just in policy, but in practice.” – Byron Cruz, Sanctuary Health & Migrant Rights Network
“Early in the pandemic, many provinces made available medical care that was previously unfunded for those without, or with the wrong residency, immigration or citizenship status. However, many of these announcements were made without proper implementation plans. As a result, previously excluded groups continued to be refused care at the point of access. As we approach the end of this pandemic, we cannot make the same mistake with vaccines.”- Dr Danyaal Raza, Board Chair, Canadian Doctors for Medicare
“Everyone living in Canada is covered by the 5 principles of the Canada Health Act. This means everyone has universality and accessibility to health care when needed. This right must include migrants’ access to the COVID vaccine and requires measures to ensure this right is guaranteed in practice, not just in policy.” – Pauline Worsfold, RN, Chair, Canadian Health Coalition & Secretary-Treasurer, Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions
“My mother is very ill and I am her primary caregiver, so I have to limit my outings to avoid putting her at risk since we do not have any health care. The curfew in Quebec means I am afraid to go out in case I get stopped by the police and asked for ID. My mother is in the most at-risk category for COVID but we don’t even know if she will get the vaccine because we have no status. This is why we are asking for a status for all. No one should be left behind.” – Samira, undocumented migrant and member of Solidarity Across Borders, Montreal.
- 1 in 23 people in Canada – over 1.6 million – don’t have permanent resident status. Many are in essential jobs including healthcare, cleaning, construction, delivery and agriculture.
- Many migrants in Canada don’t have a health card either because they are undocumented or because their work or study permits, to which health coverage is tied, have expired due to government processing delays. Those without health cards are being denied vaccination.
- Undocumented people are afraid that their personal information will be shared with federal immigration enforcement if they go to get vaccinated.
- Some employers have threatened migrants with job loss and deportation if they aren’t vaccinated. This is so employers don’t lose profits as a result of outbreaks or workers falling ill.
- Racialized and migrant communities have faced generations of exploitation and abuse at the hands of medical systems and scientific research. No specific training for service providers or public education and outreach to racialized migrants has been developed to ensure safe and dignified access to vaccination.
- The only way to ensure equal rights is to ensure everyone has the same immigration status. Migrants continue to raise the call for full and permanent immigration status for all: https://migrantrights.ca/status-for-all/
Media Contact: Karen Cocq, 647-970-8464, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please email us for recording of press conference that took place at 11am EST, February 24, 2021.