The Just Demand for Regularization Program Undocumented Persons
Migrant rights organizations want the federal government to create a regularization program that ensures permanent resident status for all undocumented people — no exceptions — and they want the deportations stopped.
There are an estimated 1.7 million people without permanent status living in Canada — that’s about one in 23 residents in the country. Of these, over 500,000 are undocumented. Those who are migrants and refugees live in a state of constant stress, insecurity and instability.
While statistics have not been released, migrant organizations have all reported a sharp increase in detentions and deportations in 2022. In 2020, 8,825 people, including 136 children, were detained in conditions where people face some of the harshest forms of incarceration in Canada. This includes being put in maximum-security prisons and solitary confinement, both of which result in restricted access to legal counsel and other vital support services. In 2020-2021, Canada deported an average of 31 people each day.
At least 19 people have died in the custody of the Canada Border Services Agency since 2000. Most recently, an as yet unnamed undocumented migrant died in immigration custody in Surrey, BC on Christmas Day and Fritznel Richard died a few days later in Quebec while crossing the border back to the U.S. after being unable to get a work permit in Canada.
There are at least 1.2 million people in Canada on temporary work, study or refugee claimant permits. Those in low-waged work in particular have no access to permanent residency so eventually they are forced to either leave or stay in the country undocumented.
In 2022, over 853,000 work and study permits were issued from January to September. This puts 2022 on track to become the year with the highest number of temporary work and study permits issued, without any increase in access to permanent residency for low-waged migrants.
Canadians saw during the COVID-19 pandemic the injustices faced by all migrants living in Canada. Migrants, at the height of the pandemic, continued to perform essential work in hospitals, to care for children and the elderly, and to grow and deliver food, all the while facing ruthless exploitation, inadequate care and unsafe working conditions. In the case of undocumented workers, many of whom provide essential services, they are totally excluded from rights including access to health care and social services.
A January 20 announcement by the Trudeau government is an example of the cruel nature of the small and exclusionary programs it provides, which recognize the rights of some and deny all rights to most. In a self-congratulatory press release January 20, the Trudeau government declared “Canada doubles immigration program for out-of-status construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area.” The program initially launched in July 2019 has resulted in 452 individuals being accepted as permanent residents (192 principal applicants and their dependents). It is now to be extended from 500 to 1,000 eligible individuals and their spouses, partners and dependents in the Greater Toronto Area.
The Migrant Rights Network notes the extremely difficult path to status provided by the program: “Only those who are related to a Canadian citizen or permanent resident are allowed to apply” and “applicants must also provide proof that they have been living in Canada for five years and that they have been working in specific jobs in construction for at least 4,680 hours — both of which requires documentation from landlords and employers that puts them at greater risk of exploitation.”
The director of Migrante Alberta, Marco Luciano, said, “Piecemeal regularization is not the solution. We demand an inclusive regularization program without caps and for all sectors. We must end the inhumane deportation and detention of migrants.”
Migrant Rights Network reports, “Every migrant-led organization in Canada, as well as over 480 civil society organizations, have jointly called for full and permanent immigration status for all migrants in the country, as well as permanent resident status for all on arrival in future.” Over the last few months, 25,000 people have sent messages to Ministers.
With files from Workers’ Forum