50 Elected Representatives from All Provinces Call on Federal Government to Support Essential Migrant & Undocumented Workers
OTTAWA — Fifty elected provincial and municipal representatives from each of Canada’s provinces issued a statement yesterday calling on the federal government to extend income supports to all migrant and undocumented workers, including those outside the country, in support of a proposal by Migrant Rights Network – Canada’s migrant coalition. In an unprecedented non-partisan effort, 30 MPPs, MLAs and MNAs and 20 Councilors and Mayors are joining together to call for “emergency income supports as well as all other social programs and rights ” for all essential workers regardless of immigration status. See full list of signatories and the statement at www.MigrantRights.ca/RepsLetter.
“We’re stronger, healthier and safer as a community when we stand together to demand and ensure no one is left behind. This moment calls on us to go all in for all of us,” said Victoria Councillor Sharmarke Dubow, one of the statement signatories. “In a public health crisis, unless we protect everyone, we cannot protect anyone. To leave over a million people without income support makes it impossible to flatten the curve for anyone.”
There are over 1.8 million non-permanent residents in Canada. In addition thousands migrant workers remain outside the country unable to enter because of border closures or health concerns. Many migrants are excluded from emergency income supports because they don’t have a valid Social Insurance Numbers (SIN), or are outside the country despite paying rent or having contracts in Canada. Other migrants are excluded because they did not earn the required amount for CERB. The Canada Emergency Student Benefit explicitly excludes study permit holders. Migrant Rights Network is calling for emergency supports to be extended to people with an invalid SIN, and the issuing of Individual Tax Numbers to workers with no SIN. Migrant Rights Network is also calling for healthcare, worker protections, community supports and permanent resident status for all.
“My family is expecting a baby any day now, but we do not have the money to pay for healthcare or rent,” says Cesar Paredes, an undocumented father-to-be and construction worker in Toronto who lost his job due to COVID-19. “We live here, we do essential work, we deserve to be treated as human beings and given a chance to make it through the pandemic.”
Cesar is one of thousands of members of organizations that make up the Migrant Rights Network. Karen Cocq, Campaigns Coordinator for Migrant Rights Network adds, “Migrants, our organizations, and now elected representatives from many of the same ridings as the COVID-19 Cabinet Committee are all raising their voices calling for income supports, healthcare, and permanent resident status for migrant and undocumented people. As the conversation turns to reopening the economy, many hundreds of thousands of people are still in abject crisis, facing irreversible changes to their lives because they can’t make rent, or keep up with car or tuition payments – extending emergency supports and permanent resident status to them is a matter of utmost priority.”
“I represent a riding where many migrant workers are engaged in building our economy, I could not, in good conscience, leave them unrepresented, says Kevin Arseneau, MLA for Kent-North in New Brunswick where the provincial government has closed the border to migrant workers. “Migrant and undocumented workers are essential in New Brunswick: they grow our food, take care of children, sick and the elderly, clean homes and hospitals, prepare and deliver food and work in construction. They deserve the same income support as everyone else.“
“Migrant workers are essential workers who keep our economy running and put food on our table. This pandemic has shown us the value of essential workers and that there’s nothing more important than taking care of one another.” added Bhutila Karpoche, MPP Parkdale – High Park in Ontario.
According to the last census, 42.9% of non-permanent residents are low-income (as compared to 12.5% of non-immigrants, and 17.9% of immigrants). Families left with no income during COVID-19 because of their immigration status are choosing between accessing emergency healthcare, including during births, or paying rent. Laid off migrant farmworkers are homeless, and without food. Racialized, low-waged and migrant workers are forced to move in with abusive employers as their workplaces are closed down or they lose their housing.