Activists push Trudeau to broaden permanent-residency plan for undocumented migrants

As activists do:

As MPs return to business after the summer break, advocates are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to offer a pathway to permanent residence for the estimated 500,000 undocumented migrants in the country.

“The next Parliament must not wait. It cannot wait. The time for comprehensive, immediate and inclusive regularization is right now,” Syed Hussan of the Migrant Rights Network told a news conference on Wednesday to launch the call for actions from Ottawa.

“Half a million people in this country are undocumented because of failures of immigration policy. Finally, Mr. Trudeau now has the historic opportunity to begin to correct these wrongs and be remembered for ensuring equal rights for these members of our society. There is cross-country support for such a move.”

Since the spring, the minority Liberal government, backed by the New Democrats, has been quietly working on a so-called regularization plan for non-status migrants, many of them precariously employed with often-exploitative jobs in construction, cleaning, caregiving, food processing and agriculture.

They face a range of vulnerabilities, including poor mental and physical health caused by social isolation and abusive working conditions.

The Star has learned that the new program builds on a previous smaller-scale initiative that helped undocumented construction workers obtain permanent status in Canada, and would likely focus on workers in particular sectors.

However, advocates are urging the government to take a broader-based approach.

“We are all here to insist that absolutely each and every undocumented person should be included. No one should be left behind. Equality is equality. And there can be no exceptions. All exceptions are discrimination,” said Hussan.

The Migrant Rights Network’s campaign is endorsed by 480 civil society organizations, including Canada’s largest human rights, climate, health, legal and labour groups.

Caroline Brouillette of the Climate Action Network Canada, a coalition of 140 groups, said the climate crisis forces more and more people from their homes, and ensuring equal rights for migrants is fundamental to climate justice.

“Transforming our unequal, exploitative system into one that ensures dignity and safety for all is a key step toward addressing Canada’s climate debt,” she said. “We urge the federal government to seize this opportunity.”

Like the majority of undocumented residents who came to Canada legally, Danilo De Leon arrived in Edmonton in 2009 from the Philippines under the Temporary Foreign Worker program as a cleaner.

In 2018, he was issued an exclusion order by border enforcement agents after his work permit and temporary resident permit expired.

“We came here to work because you need workers. We are more than just workers that feed your economy. We are human beings who have the rights to live in Canada with dignity,” said the father of two, whose deportation was only recently stayed by the court. “We need a regularization program that does not discriminate.”

Advocates say more and more migrants are arriving in Canada as temporary residents, but many struggle to extend their stay to gain permanent residence.

“Most temporary permits, whether a work permit, study permits or refugee-claimant permits, are the only gateways to Canada for low-waged and racialized people. But these pathways are actually a path off a cliff,” said Hussan.

“At one point or the other, these permits expire and cannot be replaced. The only choice, which is no choice at all, is living in Canada without any status or returning to a country that you may not be able to live in, whether it’s to escape war or poverty, climate catastrophe or discrimination.”

The Migrant Rights Network recommends a moratorium on deportations and detentions, and a free and simple application process that can be easily completed without immigration advisers.

Rallies will be held this Sunday in 12 Canadian cities, including Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver to support the call for immigration justice.

Source: Activists push Trudeau to broaden permanent-residency plan for undocumented migrants

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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