Canada rejected humanitarian bids to stay in the country at a much higher level during the pandemic. Critics want to know why

Would be interesting to know the reasons for the increased rejections and how IRCC was able to process more bids when every other program declined:

Despite the processing of immigration applications being scaled back during the pandemic, Canada dramatically increased the number of bids it rejected from those seeking to stay in this country on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Unlike other immigration programs, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada actually finalized more applications under the so-called H&C category in the last year than in 2019.

In 2020, officials processed 8,735 H&C applications, 900 more than the year before COVID-19 was declared a global health crisis, prompting border closures and travel restrictions, and stalling immigration operations.

However, last year’s refusal rate reached a five-year high of 57 per cent, up from 35 per cent in 2019. In the first quarter of 2021, 70 per cent of the H&C applications were refused.

In general, prospective migrants must apply for permanent residence from outside Canada but those already inside the country and out of status as overstayed visitors and workers or failed refugees can ask for special permission to acquire permanent status if they can provide proof of establishment in Canada or undue hardship upon removal from the country.

“With these historic rejection rates, the federal government is condemning those migrants already here, and working in the most precarious situations to further insecurity and deportation,” Syed Hussan of the Migrant Rights Network told a news conference Tuesday.

“By doubling rejections, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is doubling the potential for exploitation.”

With the myriad programs to bring in temporary residents such as international students and migrant workers, Hussan said migrants can easily fall through the cracks and become undocumented and the H&C is the only way for them to access permanent status in Canada.

During the pandemic, the immigration department has focused on transitioning temporary residents in Canada into permanent residents. In May, it opened new immigration pathways to 90,000 international graduates and essential workers, but undocumented migrants were ineligible.

“We need comprehensive not piecemeal change, that is to ensure full and permanent immigration status for all migrants, including undocumented people in the country,” said Hussan, who estimated there are half a million of non-status migrants in Canada.

“To avoid facing the same crisis in the future, ensure that all residents that arrive in the future do so with permanent resident status.”

Hussan said it’s not known what has led to the skyrocketing refusals against H&C applicants because there have been no policy changes as to how these applications are processed.

“The Liberal government must provide answers to why there is such a significant jump in H&C refusals and take immediate action to rectify this,” said NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan, who obtained the data.

Applicants from the Philippines and India were the most overrepresented groups under the humanitarian program, with refusal rates hovering at 72 per cent and 75 per cent respectively.

“It’s long past time that Canada returns to an immigration system that honours the contributions of all workers with a full range of diverse skills and occupations with landed status on arrival,” Kwan said. “A regularized immigration stream for migrant workers is the only way to ensure workers’ rights are respected.”

Queen Gabriel was among those whose humanitarian application was refused last year. The 39-year-old Trinidadian woman arrived in Canada on a visitor visa in 2013 and has worked as a personal support worker even though she is without status in Canada.

She said precarious immigration status puts migrants like her at risk to exploitation at work places. She said she was made to work 400 hours a month for more than two years and the employer refused to pay overtime and vacation. She couldn’t even travel for her father’s funeral or bury her brother, who died last year.

Ottawa introduced a time-limited “Guardian Angel” immigration program in December to eligible asylum seekers who work in Canadian health care. However, Gabriel did not qualify because she’s never made an asylum claim here.

Three years ago, she needed to be admitted to a hospital emergency department for a gynecological surgery and the medical bill was more than $8,000. She still owes the doctor $5,000.

“There’s no living without status in Canada. There’s only existing dead end jobs for survival,” she told the Tuesday news conference. “Landed status to all is necessary, especially when the immigration process is slowly choking the life out of us.”

The Migrant Rights Network is calling on the federal government to implement a “regularization” program to grant permanent status to all temporary residents currently in Canada.

“It is not a gift or a privilege,” Hussan said. “It is the only existing mechanism for migrants to access the same rights as other residents of the country.”

Source: Canada rejected humanitarian bids to stay in the country at a much higher level during the pandemic. Critics want to know why

Immigration Minister promises to address concerns over new federal immigration program

Lots of commentary regarding the barriers encountered by temporary workers in “other essential sectors” given language proof requirements, computer skills and accessibility and the like (likely less significant for healthcare workers not clear, and not barriers to international students).

The initial application numbers, as of about 5:30 this morning, highlight the barriers:

  • Healthcare workers: 644 applications out of 20,000 slots;
  • Essential non-healthcare workers: 4,460 out of 30,000;
  • International graduates: 37,778 out of 40,000 (almost completely subscribed).

The federal Immigration Minister says he is working to address concerns about a program launching this week that is aimed at creating a pathway to permanent residency for 90,000 people.

Marco Mendicino said he is committed to working with stakeholders and that he is open to the criticisms of various migrant groups as the program begins Thursday.

Announced in April, the program is designed to grant permanent residency to thousands of temporary foreign workers and graduated international students.

Under the measures, 20,000 temporary foreign workers in health care, 30,000 workers in other occupations deemed essential and 40,000 international students who have graduated from a university or college will be able to apply to become permanent residents.

“Before we prematurely rush to make any judgments about the train being on the tracks, let’s see it pick up steam, and ensure it stays on track and gets to its final destination,” Mr. Mendicino said Wednesday, “which is to welcome 90,000 newcomers in a way that is unprecedented.”

In a news conference this week, the Migrant Rights Network, representing organizations across Canada, said current requirements for this program, the short timeframe and the arbitrary caps ensure that only those in the best situations will be able to apply.

Opposition parties have called for a broader opening to welcome many more than 90,000 people.

On Wednesday, the minister was asked about specific problems with the program. They included application guides only now being available, many people scrambling to get language tests required to apply, and essential workers facing challenges applying.

In response, Mr. Mendicino said the program is “unprecedented” and ambitious. It was not a forgone conclusion that the government would proceed with the effort during a pandemic, he said, but that it was launched because of feedback from economists and the immigrant and migrant-workers community.

“I also acknowledge that because it is a new program, we have a lot of legwork to do to make sure that it is communicated clearly and there will be access to the program,” he said.

He added that guidelines have now been posted online, clarifying application needs. and said language-instruction operations are working to meet the demand.

Despite the minister’s assurances, Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said in an interview that he remained concerned about what his group sees as flaws in the program

He said, based on the alliance’s research, that the 90,000 openings fall far short of meeting the needs of 1.6 million migrants and undocumented people in Canada. He also said only a estimated 470,000 people can apply for spaces under the current rules.

“This is a short-term window, which excludes most people. It prioritizes those with the highest earnings, the highest access, and excludes the essential, low-wage workers that the Prime Minister, the Immigration Minister and most of our society says we value.”

Source: Immigration Minister promises to address concerns over new federal immigration program

Paradkar: Migrant worker groups slam new Canadian border restrictions

Not as bizarre as it sounds. Normal triage and expect some further actions by the government to address some of the issues raised. Given the pace of developments and the extent of the pandemic, unrealistic to expect any government to address all aspects, and all those affected, at one time. To say this is “simply racism” is simply silly and simplistic:

The federal government announced drastic border restrictions on Monday, with the prime minister saying only non-sick Canadians, permanent residents and — bizarrely — American citizens would be permitted to enter the country.

That means our doors are closed to residents with work permits and student permits, refugee claimants and anyone in need of humanitarian assistance.

Many migrant workers — farm workers and care workers, who are usually racialized — are on these permits. They cannot enter. Some are separated from their families, others are losing their livelihoods.

“There is no public health reason to shut out non-permanent residents,” the Migrant Rights Network said in a statement on the heels of the announcement. “This is simply racism.”

In these moments of determined calm amid chaos and confusion, it’s worth reflecting that when the comfortable feel vulnerable, the already vulnerable get pushed further into the margins.

Migrant workers are being penalized if they left the country. They’re being excluded from policies to protect Canadians if they did not. And if moral imperatives to do the right thing are insufficient, there’s this: not paying attention to their plight puts us all at risk.

About 37 migrant organizations from across Canada came together Monday demanding that the government support more than 1.5 million non-permanent residents in Canada, who they say “face a potential human rights disaster” when the loss of their livelihoods here leaves their families without food.

They’re asking the government to offer access to health care for all, including undocumented residents; to strengthen labour laws so migrants workers can also get paid sick leave and protection from reprisals for taking that leave; an end to all detentions and deportations; and funds to expand emergency shelters and food banks that are bursting at the seams.

Syed Hussan, executive director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said migrant organizations were flooded with hundreds of calls within an hour of Ottawa’s announcement, “from students abroad not being able to come back and from workers who’ve already bought plane tickets and paid tens of thousands of dollars” in recruitment fees. “There is no clarity if they will be protected.”

This is the start of the agricultural season and Hussan said farm workers who did manage to get in are finding employers refusing to take them to grocery stores.

“They live in rural communities and can’t get to the grocery stores,” Hussan said. “And when they do get to the grocery stores, there are no supplies there. So, we’re literally doing food drops across the country to farms.”

What about the workers who didn’t travel?

They can’t afford to fall sick. There is no Employment Insurance available for those who are paid in cash, Hussan said.

Most migrant workers don’t have access to paid sick leave and risk losing their jobs even if they take unpaid sick days.

Earlier Monday, Premier Doug Ford promised legislation that would remove the requirement for employees to obtain sick notes before taking time off work. But it’s not clear if that protection extends to migrant workers.

Add to that, existing immigration laws allows for workers to be deported if they fall sick, even if their home countries are unsafe.

That threat is a huge barrier to farm workers and care workers from reporting to the health authorities if they do fall sick or are asked to do unsafe work.

“We wanted to hear about labour laws needing to work with federal immigration laws. But we heard nothing from federal government except the closure of borders,” Hussan said. “And that’s creating more shock waves than anything else. People feel excluded rather than protected.”

Social distancing for the usually comfortable means figuring out workarounds: FaceTime! Skype meetings! Pick up the phone (as the prime minister said)! Take walks! Don’t go to the gym! But the usually vulnerable are finding themselves in a deeper, more ominous mess.

“We’re hearing from a lot of people that care workers are not being allowed to leave home because employers are too nervous (that) it’s going to impact them.”

In other words they’re trapped in their workplace without a break. Imagine the uproar if Bay Street did that to its employees.

Also, how would migrant workers who live in bunk houses, sometimes “18 to a house” self-isolate? Or wash their hands? “We know there’s no running water on the fields. People don’t have the ability to wash their hands,” Hussan said.

Labour laws, immigration laws and health and safety laws need to be adapted to ensure that migrant and undocumented workers are protected, Hussan said.

“Instead of dealing with this as a public health crisis, the government is responding to it by dealing with it as a securitization crisis by shutting down the border to racialized migrants and low-wage people.”

Source: OpinionShree Paradkar: Migrant worker groups slam new Canadian border restrictions

Community groups gear up to counter far-right propaganda in federal election

Of note. And encouraging, as reported, more dialogue and conversation-based than haranguing or labelling:

It worries Janice Folk-Dawson when the veteran union leader sees hate posters popping up on university campuses and far-right supremacist groups showing up in her community.

“It’s frightening to see small towns becoming the targets of hate groups,” said the president of the Guelph and District Labour Council. “Fascism started in small towns and the education system. We need to address the rise of the right and bust the myths they spread.”

Earlier this year, the 62-year-old, who is of Russian and Irish descent, enrolled in a workshop held by the Migrant Rights Network, a national anti-racism alliance that aims to help communities stand up against racism and the far right in the run-up to the federal election, when immigration and refugees are expected to be a wedge issue.

Formed last December to put migrant issues on the agenda for the Oct. 21 election, the alliance began canvassing migrant groups about the issues they were most concerned about. Almost everyone cited their fear of rising racism and xenophobia in Canada and asked for assistance in pushing back against the spread of far-right ideologies.

The alliance spent months developing training materials including a video and a tool kit, and since April has delivered more than 50 workshops training hundreds of volunteers — affiliated with unions, charities and community groups — from Squamish, B.C. to St. John’s, Nfld. The aim is to have them reach out to their local communities and have conversations with family, friends and colleagues about immigration and refugee issues, armed with the facts on policies to counter myths fuelled by propaganda.

The network has organized rallies across the country, including a number on Labour Day, and begun monitoring candidates’ campaign rhetoric and calling out those they feel are misinforming the public with racist and anti-immigrant comments.

A newsletter will be distributed to people who sign up to support the alliance’s work to keep them informed on issues and concerns raised during the campaign.

Karen Cocq, the alliance’s education co-ordinator, said political parties and politicians, to consolidate their support base, often draw attention away from their own policy failures and point fingers at “the others,” such as migrants.

Instead of blaming migrants for straining government services and pushing down wages, said Cocq, people should be asking politicians why they cut budgets and fail to properly protect workers with decent wages.

“We understand people are anxious about their future, about the economy and try to make sense of the problems they face. We want to focus on this climate of anxiety that allows scapegoating in our society,” said Cocq. “We try to provide everyday folks the tools they need to understand what’s going on and not get fooled by those who use racism to divide us.”

Ottawa climate activist Katie Rae Perfitt of Our Time, a campaign that engages young people to push for a New Green Deal in the upcoming election, said her volunteers often hear Canadians raising issues about migration when they are canvassing about climate change.

Born and raised in a farming community in the Ottawa Valley, Perfitt said far-right groups exploit the fears of people who worry for the future of their children, about jobs being taken away and migrants being a drain on existing government services and the health-care system. When she heard about the workshop put on by the Migrant Rights Network earlier this summer, she jumped at the opportunity.

Recently, she was canvassing on Sparks St., a pedestrian mall in downtown Ottawa, when she struck up a conversation with an older man about climate change and the chat quickly turned to the influx of asylum seekers in Canada via the United States land border over the last two years.

“We really clicked talking about climate change and the political action needed. It caught me off guard when he started talking about what he thought of the people who crossed the border,” recalled the 32-year-old. “I realized I had to pull out my migrant tool box.”

Perfitt started asking the man about his source of information and presenting him with the facts that refugees have the legal right to seek asylum here, and trying to calm his fear that Canada has lost control of its border.

“We did not agree 100 per cent, but we were able to centre our values, have a conversation and push back some of that fear,” she said.

Folk-Dawson said these conversations can be hard because it’s much easier for people to point at someone else for causing their miseries. Over the summer, she has used her own labour movement network to raise awareness of migrant issues and far-right rhetoric.

“A debate of facts is not a debate of opinions. We try to help people work through their feelings and experience to alleviate their fear. It can be uncomfortable and confrontational,” said Folk-Dawson, adding that even union supporters are susceptible to the myths that migrants are stealing jobs and pushing down wages.

In June, she was handing out flyers at the University of Guelph when a businessman in his 60s started complaining to her that border-crossing asylum seekers were queue-jumpers and immigrants were straining the health-care system. She explained to him that those refugees really have no queue to jump because they are ineligible for any immigration program and that migrants do contribute to Canada’s tax base but often have limited access to government services.

“At the end, the man said he would go back and have the same conversation with others. That’s one person we changed,” said Folk-Dawson gleefully. “We have to get to them before some other folks get to them first.”

Source: Community groups gear up to counter far-right propaganda in federal election