The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change wants a regularization program on the agenda of a three-day federal cabinet retreat to be held by Prime Minister Trudeau next week.
MWAC is an advocacy organization for migrant workers, including farm workers, caregivers and current and former international students.
The group says more than 1.7 million migrants live in Canada, including 500,000 undocumented people and their families, and are subject to exploitation and deportation sans fundamental rights.
“Canada’s immigration policy is effectively a revolving door immigration system through which people are brought in, abused, exploited, and tossed out,” said Syed Hussan, the executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, in an interview with the NB Media Co-op.
“We need a single-tier immigration system where everyone comes in the country with the same rights, and that means permanent resident status for everyone in the future.”
“And we need to ensure a permanent resident status for everyone that is here now, including students, workers, refugees, and undocumented people in their families.”
Check out the interview here:
Lack of regularization program
Justin Trudeau’s cabinet plans to meet in Hamilton, Ont. for a three-day retreat starting Monday, Jan. 23.
In December, MWAC delivered a letter to Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc calling for permanent residency status for all undocumented workers and temporary migrants in Canada.
CBC reported last October that Ottawa was working on a regularization plan to grant permanent residency status to 500,000 undocumented migrants. However, the details remained vague.
Regularization programs are standard in the European Union.
Countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Poland and Spain all “routinely implement regularization programs,” according to Canadian scholars Peter Nyers and David Moffette writing in The Conversation.
“While less common in Canada, regularization programs have been implemented in the past. Under Pierre Trudeau’s government in 1973, some 39,000 people were regularized as part of the Adjustment of Status Program,” the article states.
A report by the Migrant Rights Network, a cross-Canada alliance to combat racism and fight for migrant justice, states that “people become undocumented because of the failures of immigration policy.”
The report also states that Canada had a number of regularization programs from 1960 to 2004.
It says the largest regularization program was the Adjustment of Status Program initiated by Pierre Trudeau, father of the current prime minister.
The report further states that “two regularization programs, both quite small and exclusionary, were pilotted during COVID-19.” The group has been calling for regularization for decades.
Although Prime Minister Trudeau had promised a regularization program in his mandate letter to the Minister of Immigration Sean Fraser on December 16, 2021 no progress has been made so far.
Hussan says that MWAC is calling for a program without caps – meaning there are no limits on how many people can apply for permanent residency without application requirements that rely on others.
“So no letter from an employer, no English testing requirements, no educational requirements, nor requirements that will force you to get a document from someone else, and without exclusions such as inadmissibility to the Canadian Immigration System as a series of inadmissibility fees.”
While the number of undocumented workers and temporary migrants swells up, Canada aims to welcome 465,000 new permanent residents in 2023, 485,000 in 2024, and 500,000 in 2025.
Global News reported that Canada received a record 430,000 newcomers in 2022.
Hussan stressed the importance of permanent residency for undocumented workers and temporary migrants in Canada. He argues that having fundamental labour rights is impossible if one doesn’t have a permanent resident status.
“It’s not possible to get access to health care, or be with your family or be able to speak up when you’re being exploited at work or abused. Or if you’re facing you know, sexual abuse… your ability to protect yourself is dependent on your immigration status for many, many people,” Hussan said.
“So what we are calling for is a very simple thing. Everyone in the country must have the same rights. And the only way that’s possible is if everyone has permanent resident status.”
A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada commented on the issue:
“On September 20, 2022, Minister Sean Fraser tabled the Government of Canada’s response to PMM 44 in the House of Commons. The Government’s response outlines a range of existing pathways to be expanded or adjusted to increase opportunities to transition from temporary to permanent residence, strengthen Canada’s ability to meet a wide range of labour needs and address long-term labour shortages, and support regional needs as well as communities across the country.
“Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will be informing our future policy decisions based on the lessons learned through recent innovative programs that have tested new approaches and successfully transitioned individuals in Canada on a temporary status or with no status to permanent residency. Most notably, programs such as the Out-of-Status Construction Workers Pilot, the Guardian Angels, and the pathway to permanent residence for temporary workers and international graduates.
“For more information on the Government of Canada’s Strategy to Expand Transitions to Permanent Residency, please consult the following link:https://canada-preview.adobecqms.net/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/motion-44-response.html
“To note, anyone can apply for permanent residence in Canada provided they meet the qualifications. There are a number of avenues that applicants for permanent residence can consider in order to immigrate to Canada. Foreign nationals should consult our website to determine the programs for which they may be eligible or could work towards.
“Under our regular programs, tens of thousands of temporary workers transition to permanent status each year. For instance, in 2022, up to the end of November, nearly 102,000 transitioned from worker status to permanent residence.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, IRCC will continue to explore methods in which we can improve the process of transitioning foreign nationals from temporary status to permanent residency.”
Arun Budhathoki is a video-journalist with the NB Media Co-op. This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada, administered by the Canadian Association of Community Television Stations and Users (CACTUS).