Day of Action Demands Status for All
A successful day of action for Status for All! was held in cities across Canada and Quebec on September 18, two days before the opening of parliament. Events were organized by migrant rights organizations to demand that the Trudeau government uphold the rights of hundreds of thousands of people to permanent resident status.
Actions took place in Vancouver, Edmonton, Guelph, Clarksburg, Toronto, Hamilton, Sudbury, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, Charlottetown, Fredericton, Miramichi, and St. John’s.
In the pouring rain, hundreds of people congregated — a literal gathering of the United Nations in Montreal — at the foot of the toppled statue of Sir John A. MacDonald at Canada Place. A more fitting venue could not have been found by the organizers, which included Solidarity Across Borders and the Immigrant Workers Centre. The atmosphere was friendly, militant and cultured, as activists, with undocumented migrant workers themselves at the forefront, expressed their resolve that everyone be included in a regularization program for permanent residency, where their rights are recognized, as human beings and as members of the Quebec and Canadian polity.
Mamadou Konaté, originally from Côte d’Ivoire, threatened by the federal government with deportation on September 30, was the first to speak. He pointed to the contribution made by undocumented workers throughout the pandemic, forced to work in essential services and deprived of any government assistance such as proper health care for themselves in Quebec and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit that was provided to Canadians and permanent residents. He called for an end to deportations and a regularization program for all.
Jasmin de la Calzada of PINAY, a Filipino organization in Quebec working with migrant workers, brought home the point that “all deserve to work in dignity and respect, whether they’ve arrived as workers, asylum seekers or because they want to make a new life, away from the social and political repression, turmoil and economic hardships that western nations like Canada have largely contributed to and perpetuated in many parts of this world.” She added that displaced people, migrants, asylum seekers and the undocumented “deserve a regularization program that is inclusive and non-discriminatory. We can make this possible and today, we make it heard loud and clear.”
Activists took to the street and made their way to the offices of the Canada Border Services Agency, where Frantz André of the Action Committee on Non-Status Persons (CAPSS) told the crowd: “We must continue to fight for those presently en route to Canada. We’ve seen thousands of people, Haitians amongst others, who have been deported to their country without even a hearing, and there are thousands who continue to leave their country to get to the U.S. and from there to Canada.” He told the crowd, “Your commitment is proof that humanity is still very much alive and some day, we will all be Canadians, but we have to keep on fighting for it. They will not be giving it to us. We deserve to be Canadians. We’ve been contributing economically, socially.”
Susana Pont Rivera from the women’s organization Echo des femmes, spoke of her organization’s motto, which is that alone, everything is difficult, however together, anything is possible. “We therefore call upon our sisters and comrades, on women’s groups in Quebec and across Canada to mobilize for regularization. We salute the strength and the determination of women without status. They are part of our communities and must stay,” she said. This is proof positive that the movement in Quebec for the recognition of the human rights of the undocumented continues to grow and through all our efforts, will prevail, she added.
The procession then made its way to the offices of the Legault government in Montreal, where the very successful and inspiring action ended with the denunciation of racist statements made by the Premier linking immigrants with violence.
In Toronto 1,500 people, including migrant students and workers, refugees and undocumented workers, took part in the action. The spirit of the action was captured in the words of welcome by Vanessa Gray, an Anishinaabe kwe from Aamjiwnaang First Nation who expressed the solidarity between Indigenous people and immigrants, refugees and undocumented people. She pointed out that the Canadian state treats Indigenous peoples brutally, as it does newcomers and that by uniting and working together, by supporting each other’s struggles, a bright and secure future for all will be achieved.
Many speakers addressed the participants in the rain at Christie Pits, including Merari Borgez, who moved from Mexico City to Toronto with her family as refugees. She spoke about how her family struggled to access basic services such as health care and education as well as her father’s brutal exploitation as a factory worker who had to continue working despite a workplace injury or face the loss of his livelihood. “Living without status is dehumanizing,” she said, and demanded that the Trudeau government prioritize the means to provide status for all migrants and refugees in Canada. “We don’t want pity. We want action,” she said.
Caroline Michael, an undocumented health care worker who works as a personal support worker in a Toronto hospital, shared her many efforts to remain in Canada. She must pay for her health care and other services and cannot take time off from work particularly during the pandemic. “This is like [you are] in prison. You’re being held captive,” she said. “Why should we be treated this way? All human beings deserve to be treated rightly. We have the right to live happily in Canada,” she said. She demanded that the Canadian parliament regularize the status of everyone living in Canada so they have stability and dignity.
Following the speeches, with undocumented workers, refugees and migrant workers leading the way, participants marched to the constituency office of Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, chanting Status for All Now! and other slogans, drawing the attention and support of people along the route, some of whom joined in.
(Article and photos from The Marxist-Leninist Daily)