Advisory: International Students Left Out in the Cold As Schools Reopen & Unemployment Remains High

Migrant Students United
Media Advisory

International Students Left Out in the Cold As Schools Reopen & Unemployment Remains High

Thousands face deportation, high fees, and lack of healthcare

Toronto and Mississauga, September 10, 2020 — Current and former international students are organizing a weekend of demonstrations in Toronto (Sep 12) and Mississauga (Sep 13) to call for changes to immigration rules to recover from COVID-19. International student tuition fees have increased dramatically during COVID-19 even as students and their families have lost work and wages, and classes have shifted online. Many international graduates on time-restricted work permits are required to complete 12-24 months of continuous high waged work to qualify for permanent resident status. However, with unemployment for racialized workers at 17%, most graduates do not have access to these jobs. Work permits remain non-renewable despite the impact of COVID-19 on the job market, meaning that thousands face deportation in the near future because they cannot fulfill requirements. Delays in permit processing has resulted in thousands without active Social Insurance Numbers. Access to healthcare for former students, even during COVID-19, is tied to having a full-time job, and most students cannot access emergency supports. Over 14,000 people have signed two petitions calling for changes in immigration policy now.

TORONTO – Saturday, September 12, 2:45pm
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office, 344 Bloor Street West

MISSISSAUGA – Sunday, September 13, 2pm 
Westwood Square Mall, 7205 Goreway Drive

BACKGROUND
There were 572,000 new study permits and 98,470 new post graduate work permits issued in 2019. Many of these permit holders remain in Canada for several years. Over 17,000 one or two-year work permits were issued between September 2019 and June 2020.

Migrant students are calling on the federal and provincial government to:

  • FIX RULES AROUND WORK: Make post-graduate work permits renewable so former students can complete requirements for Permanent Residency (PR) in the COVID-19 job market; Remove time-limits and industry restrictions on work;
  • GIVE REAL ACCESS TO PR: Lower points requirements for PR (CRS); Count work that is part-time, in-school, in any occupation, including with gaps towards PR; and Ensure full and permanent immigration status for all migrants;
  • LOWER TUITION & ENSURE FULL SERVICES: Ensure migrant students pay domestic tuition; Full access to all services including healthcare, housing, jobs, scholarships, pandemic emergency benefits, and in-school support; Immediate access to Social Insurance Numbers
  • UNITE FAMILIES: Allow families to travel, ensure work permits for family members

Media Liaison: Sarom Rho, 647-858-2854, sarom@migrantworkersalliance.org, Migrant Students United 

Migrant worker fired for speaking to journalists calls for full immigration status for all

Toronto, July 30, 2020 — Migrant farmworker, Luis Gabriel Flores Flores, who was fired for speaking to journalists after testing positive for COVID-19, calls on the Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino today to demand immigration status for all. 

Reading from a letter he had written, Mr Flores said, “What happened to me is what happens to migrants when we try to defend their rights. We have been subjected to a system of temporary immigration where if we stand up for ourselves, we are deported. Today, I am here to say to you that I am not afraid. That I deserve dignity. That all of us deserve dignity. That is why we need permanent resident status now, so workers can have the power to protect ourselves. Our health, our well-being, our families, and our lives depend on it.” See Mr Flores’ full letter to the Minister of Immigration here

Mr Flores first came to Canada in 2014, and is a father of 2 children from Mexico. In 2020, he came to work at Scotlynn Farms. He tested positive for COVID-19 and was quarantined. During that time he spoke to journalists about the poor living conditions and mistreatment at Scotlynn Farms. On June 20th, Juan López Chaparro, who also worked at Scotlynn farm and lived with Mr Flores, died from COVID-19. The following day, Mr Flores was fired by Mr Robert Biddle Jr., founder of Scotlynn Farms.

“For years, we have called on the federal government to stop tipping the scales against migrant workers, to stop giving employers complete control over workers’ lives. All migrants must have the power to protect themselves, to speak up, to leave abusive and dangerous situations, and that means full immigration status for all is essential,” says Syed Hussan, Executive Director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “The federal government needs to send a signal to migrant and undocumented people across the country today that what happened to Mr Flores will not be tolerated, and that migrants who speak out will be protected.”

Over 1,100 migrant farmworkers in Ontario have been infected with COVID-19 because of their housing and working conditions. One in 23 people (over 1.6 million people) in Canada are migrants, refugees, or undocumented. They are unable to access essential services, assert basic rights or access emergency support. Employer reprisals against them are common.

Over 10,000 people have signed a petition calling for permanent resident status for all and other protections for migrants: https://migrantrights.ca/covid19/. A visual petition of over 200 migrant workers calling for status was recently posted on Prime Minister Trudeau’s office: https://twitter.com/MWACCanada/status/1284122949549785093

Timeline of Reprisals Against Mr Flores

  • Mr Flores came to Canada on April 18, 2020, and was in quarantine for two weeks at a hotel. 
  • He started work at Scotlynn Farms in Norfolk, Ontario, where housing and working conditions were very poor. It was impossible for workers to physically distance, workers had no Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and they were not allowed to rest. 
  • A couple of weeks later several of Mr Flores’s colleagues started showing COVID-19 symptoms. Mr Flores and others repeatedly requested medical attention for them. 
  • They were told by supervisors that information had been shared with management but no medical attention was provided and no testing was done. 
  • Eventually workers got so sick, that one of Mr Flores’s colleagues called a contact off the farm to send an ambulance. 
  • As a result, testing finally occurred at the end of May and nearly 200 workers at the farm tested positive, including Mr Flores. 
  • While in quarantine, Mr Flores shared the story of labour exploitation and sub-standard housing with Globe & Mail on June 10, 2020 and Toronto Star on June 13, 2020 in tandem with a report released by the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC). He was one of several workers who spoke out. The press conference of the report received coverage on CTV, Global, CBC, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and many other outlets. 
  • At 11pm on June 20, 2020, Mr Flores and other farmworkers were informed that his roommate Mr Juan Lopez Chaparro had died of COVID-19. 
  • Mr Flores spoke up at that time to supervisors, demanding an explanation from the employer and that the farm take responsibility for what happened. 
  • At 11:00 a.m. on June 21, 2020, Mr. Robert Biddle Jr., founder of Scotlynn Farms, arrived at Mr. Flores’ bunkhouse apartment unit. Mr Biddle showed Mr Flores an image of a video from a press conference by MWAC which featured Mr Flores’ colleague. He told Mr Flores that he would be sent back to Mexico first thing the next morning. Mr Flores insisted that he was not the person in the video. See Mr Biddle’s photo here
  • Mr Biddle left and a foreman reiterated the employer’s decision, and informed Mr Flores that the employer was looking for three other workers they suspected of speaking to the press. 
  • Mr Flores left the farm, and has been housed by a supporter in coordination with Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.
  • On July 30, 2020, Mr Flores filed an anti-reprisals claim to the Ontario Ministry of Labour for $40,401.35 (the maximum possible under existing laws), and visited the office of Federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino to call for full and permanent immigration status for all.
  • Mr Flores remains in Canada, on a tied work permit that only allows him to work for Scotlynn, which is set to expire on November 30th. He has no permanent housing, or permanent income and is concerned about how he will support his family back home. 

Media Contact: Syed Hussan, Executive Director, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change416-453-3632, hussan@migrantworkersalliance.org

Release: Migrant Students United & Canadian Federation of Students call on Canada to expand income supports to International Students

MEDIA RELEASE

Media Contact: Sarom Rho, 647-858-2854, Migrant Students United; Geneviève Charest, g.charest@cfs-fcee.ca, Canadian Federation of Students 

Ottawa & Toronto, April 30, 2020 – Migrant Students United, a cross-Canada organization of international students, and the Canadian Federation of Students, Canada’s largest and oldest national student organization, are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to expand income supports, including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) to all students, regardless of immigration status or active Social Insurance Number (SIN). Migrant students have taken to social media today calling for emergency supports, using #MigrantStudentsUnited. Follow students speaking out online by clicking here

“Approximately 1 in 5 postsecondary students in Canada are migrants and excluding them from the CESB is unfair and puts many of these students at risk of hunger and homelessness. We urge the federal government to extend the CESB and CERB to all migrant students, including those without valid SIN or stuck outside the country, and ensure $500 per week in income supports,” says Sarom Rho, Coordinator of Migrant Students United. 

“Welcoming students into Canada must be paired with the necessary support mechanisms to ensure that their health, safety, and income security are being prioritized; that is the responsible thing to do. Most importantly, migrant students are people, just like anyone else, who feel scared at a time of uncertainty and who are being overlooked by the government,” said Sofia Descalzi, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. 

BACKGROUND

  • On average migrant students pay triple in fees over their domestic counterparts with a national average of $29,714 in tuition fees in 2019. The additional barrier on work restrictions, has placed students in a financial situation where many are struggling to pay for their cost of education, rent, groceries, and other bills. 
  • Migrant students contributed $15.5 billion to the Canadian economy in 2016, making them vital contributors to Canadian society. 
  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has lifted the limitation on working hours for international students in essential industries – but this does not resolve problems. Migrant students in public post-secondary institutions start their summer breaks in April, when the limitation on hours of work already does not apply. Many students are engaged in academic research, which has not been deemed essential. Giving the option to work does not comprehensively address the need of migrant students for income support now, and does not take into account migrant students who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed or are living with people with these conditions. In a decimated job market, it is incredibly hard to find work considering migrant students are not included in the Canada Summer Jobs program. 
  • In a global pandemic and economic downturn, many students have families back home that are struggling to make ends meet and financial support they would normally have is no longer available. 


Release: A million students potentially excluded from emergency income support

MEDIA RELEASE
MIGRANT STUDENTS UNITED

Contact: Sarom Rho, Migrant Students United Organizer, 647-858-2854, sarom@migrantworkersalliance.org

A million students potentially excluded from emergency income support 

Toronto, April 22, 2020 – Migrant Students United is calling on the federal government to expand Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) and Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to migrant students. Already, CERB is inaccessible to migrants without a valid Social Insurance Number, which impacts hundreds of thousands of students who cannot renew their work or study permits because of COVID-19 related delays. Now CESB seems to excludes migrant students on a study permit. Over 7,000 migrant students have signed a petition for income supports, worker protections, healthcare and permanent resident status on arrival. 

“Approximately 1 in 5 postsecondary students in Canada are migrants. Excluding them from emergency income supports is unfair. In a pandemic, it is a public health imperative to ensure everyone can stay at home safely, but if migrant students are left out, they are forced to work or face hunger and homelessness. Migrant students pay incredibly high tuition fees and are in the country without their families – they need more support, not less. Everyone, regardless of immigration status must get income supports!” – Sarom Rho, Organizer, Migrant Students United!

BACKGROUND

  • There are nearly 1 million study and post-graduate work permit holders in Canada. Their SIN begins with ‘9’ and expires along with their immigration permits. To renew SIN, immigration permits must be renewed. COVID-19 has created enormous delays in permit processing, and hundreds of thousands of workers are without income supports. 
  • Migrant students in public institutions are allowed to only work 20 hours off campus during the school term, private institution students can’t work off campus without a new work permit.
  • Migrants students are over-represented in essential industries. They work in construction, cleaning, grocery stores, restaurants, warehouses, domestic work and as truck drivers and delivery workers. 
  • Migrant students pay retail tax on purchases, and property taxes through rent as well as income tax, EI and CPP. 
  • 42.9% of non-permanent residents are low-income (as compared to 12.5% of non-immigrants, and 17.9% of immigrants). They are therefore extremely vulnerable to economic crises – a single missed paycheque causes irreversible harm to health, safety, and future life possibilities.
  • Like other low-wage workers, migrant students spend the majority of their income on rent, basic necessities, food and transportation. As such, they play a critical role in sustaining and growing local economies. When income disappears for the poorest, the effects are amplified across the entire economy. 
  • In a global pandemic and economic downturn, many students have families back home that are struggling to make ends meet – migrant students need emergency income, as well as access to lower fees.
  • Over 7,000 students have signed a petition calling for healthcare for all, enhanced workers protections, open work permits and permanent resident status for all, an end to detentions and deportations, and community supports for migrant students: www.MigrantRights.ca/MigrantStudents

CBC Ombudsperson: Investigate documentary on “birth tourism”

The following is a letter sent to CBC Ombudsperson. You can send a complaint also through: https://cbc.radio-canada.ca/en/ombudsman/contact

CBC 5th Estate Documentary – Passport babies: The growing shadow industry of birth tourism is inaccurate, unfair, imbalanced and puts migrants at risk

We are writing to you regarding the recent CBC 5th Estate’s documentary titled Passport babies: The growing shadow industry of birth tourism broadcast on January 5, 2020, and accompanying CBC web articles. This letter is co-signed by 30 immigrant rights, labour, research and indigenous rights organizations. 

The documentary and the accompanying articles fail to meet even the most minimal standards for fairness and accuracy in reporting. The program provides a biased version of events, and does not include any immigration rights expert voices. In the current climate of rising xenophobia and racism, this kind of misinformation only increases the  risk of violence and hatred toward migrants and their families.

(1) Accuracy

The program repeatedly reiterates that there are 5,000 non-resident births per year in Canada, and directly links that number to births by tourists. This number has only been cited in one report by Policy Options from November 22, 2018. However, in that study, the report author Mr. Griffith highlights that the 5,000 figure includes all migrants in Canada that do not have health coverage – not just tourists. This fact is not mentioned in the 5th Estate’s report at all. Over 780,000 temporary permits were issued during the period of Mr. Griffith’s study. In addition, there are an estimated  500,000 undocumented residents in Canada. Births by any migrants who did not have medical coverage are counted in the 5,000 figure. Thus, births by tourists are likely dramatically lower than what 5th Estate states them to be.

(2) Fairness

The 5th Estate episode, as well as the accompanying CBC piece titled ‘All about the money’: How women travelling to Canada to give birth could strain the health-care system, posit that lack of fee payment by tourist mothers is hurting the integrity of the healthcare system. The statistics provided, as outlined above, are not limited to tourists but include all non-payment of health fees by migrants. Many migrants are excluded from health coverage because of their temporary permits. Many are unable to pay up front the high fees necessary for life-saving care, putting their lives at risk. In July of 2019, the United Nations urged Canada to change legislation to ensure access to healthcare to all residents. This is critical context about the systemic denial of healthcare to migrants which, when left out, negatively biases viewers towards the reality of healthcare access for migrants. 

The show highlights that hospitals and doctors are collecting high fees from patients – $18 million invoiced, and only $2 million not paid. Considering non-payment of fees here includes all migrants, it is important to clarify that 42.9% of non-permanent residents in Canada are low-income, and thus are unable to afford such high fees. And yet the CBC reports the numbers as if they are simply rich tourists accessing services and refusing to pay. 

At the same time, front line nurses in the show itself point out how increased profit by hospitals is not resulting in increased staffing. But the production and editing of the show, including corresponding questions to hospital authorities and government officials, lays the blame for the strains on the health care system on fee non-payment by migrants, instead of inadequate staffing support and low government funding for front line workers, particularly nurses. 

(3) Balance

The show features several voices, including US President Donald Trump and Canadian parliamentarians, all speaking out against “birth tourism”. No immigration rights organizations, experts or lawyers are featured that could provide nuance or alternative interpretations of the statistics cited, , or shed light on the impact that high healthcare fees have on migrants, or to outline policy alternatives  developed by migration policy experts, for example, on the regulation of international recruiters – a subject of extensive policy and legislative work by immigrant rights organizations. 

(4) Impact on migrants

Police-reported hate crimes in Canada have been surging, a fact highlighted in the accompanying 5th Estate documentary aired on the same date. This rise in hate crimes is a direct result of growing anti-immigrant sentiment, analyses and rhetoric. In such an environment, producing inaccurate, unfair, and unbalanced media reports serves only to fan these flames of xenophobia and racism by redirecting concerns about lack of funding for healthcare towards immigrants.  This is dog-whistle politics, and it has a direct and harmful effect on hundreds of thousands individuals and families, and biases policy makers. 

We urge you to investigate the documentary, and accompanying web-stories closely, and to issue retractions and clarifications, and to ensure such inaccurate and biased reports on immigration policy are not aired in the future. 

On behalf of:

  1. Migrant Workers Alliance for Change*
  2. OCASI-Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
  3. Idle No More
  4. Association for the Rights of Household and Farm Workers (ADDPD-ARHW)
  5. Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network
  6. BC Health Coalition
  7. Caregiver Connections Education and Support Organization
  8. Caring for Social Justice collective
  9. Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter
  10. Collaborative Network to End Exploitation
  11. CUPE 1571
  12. Durham Region Labour Council 
  13. Faraday Law
  14. Idle No More Ontario
  15. Institut universitaire SHERPA: migration, diversité, santé
  16. Migrant Worker Solidarity Network, Manitoba
  17. Migrant Workers Centre – BC
  18. Migrante Alberta
  19. Migrante BC
  20. Montréal Antifasciste
  21. No One is Illegal – Halifax: K’jipuktuk
  22. No One Is Illegal Toronto
  23. No One Is Illegal – Fredericton
  24. Northumberland Labour Council
  25. Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
  26. Sanctuary Health
  27. Toronto Seed Library
  28. Unifor Local 222
  29. Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights (CDWCR)
  30. Workers Action Centre

* The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) includes individuals as well as Asian Community Aids Services, Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support), Caregiver Connections Education and Support Organization, Caregivers Action Centre, Chinese Canadian National Council – Toronto, Durham Region Migrant Solidarity Network, FCJ Refugee House, GABRIELA Ontario, IAVGO Community Legal Clinic, Income Security Advocacy Centre, Migrante Ontario, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Northumberland Community Legal Centre, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, OHIP For All, PCLS Community Legal Clinic, SALCO Community Legal Clinic, Students Against Migrant Exploitation, UFCW, UNIFOR, Workers’ Action Centre and Workers United.

Poorest Migrants and Refugees In Grave Danger in Ontario

Toronto – Ontario’s decision to deny Legal Aid to migrants and refugees for immigration matters effectively puts thousands of lives in grave danger.

Until yesterday, Legal Aid certificates were only issued to migrant workers who earned below $11,632 and in some cases below $17,731 annually. That is, only the poorest were able to qualify. Today, they have been shut out. These changes will be disastrous for many, fatal for the rest.

As of this morning:

  • A migrant care worker who bravely left her abusive employer will not be able to access Legal Aid to secure her immigration status long enough to press charges against her employer;
  • A migrant farm worker who was injured on the job, and needs to stay in Canada for healthcare, would not be able to get Legal Aid to support them to secure their status;
  • A migrant agricultural worker who had faced labour exploitation even though they have been trafficked could not get the assistance of a lawyer from Legal Aid;
  • Refugees or migrants who face death or torture if deported would not be able to access Legal Aid to appeal their case or go to court;
  • Migrants or refugees who are being unfairly held in immigration prison will not have access to a Legal Aid lawyer to help them to argue for their liberty.

and the list goes on.

Ontario’s cuts to the minimum wage, job protections, social assistance, housing support, mental health services have collectively  pushed many migrants and refugees in exploitative conditions to a breaking point. Now, by denying them Legal Aid, Ontario has taken away their ability to even stay in the country to fight for basic rights.

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change will do everything in our power to support the self-organization of migrant workers to access rights, dignity, services and status. We will unite our members along with all labour, community and environmental groups in Ontario under attack from recent cuts to push back against this avalanche of injustice.

Media Contact: Syed Hussan, 416-453-3632, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change includes individuals as well as Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention, Asian Community Aids Services, Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support), Caregiver Connections Education and Support Organization, Caregivers Action Centre, Durham Region Migrant Solidarity Network, FCJ Refugee House, Fuerza Puwersa, GABRIELA Ontario, IAVGO Community Legal Clinic, Income Security Advocacy Centre, Justice for Migrant Workers, Migrante Ontario, No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Northumberland Community Legal Centre, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, OHIP For All, PCLS Community Legal Clinic, SALCO Community Legal Clinic, Students Against Migrant Exploitation, UFCW, UNIFOR, Workers Action Centre and Workers United.

Migrant workers left behind in 2017 Federal Budget

Joint Release from Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and Coalition for Migrant Workers

MEDIA RELEASE

Contact:     Sharmeen Khan – Migrant Workers Alliance for Change – 1-647-881-0440

Natalie Drolet – Executive Director, West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association – 1-604-669-6452 or 1-604-445-0661

March 24, 2017, Toronto — Migrant workers and advocates are angered that the 2017 Federal Budget failed to deliver promised details on reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.  The Liberals delayed their response to a Parliamentary Committee review of the TFWP in January by promising that details would be announced in the Budget.  But the Budget offers only a handful of paragraphs that ignore migrant workers’ critical demands for open work permits, permanent residency and robust rights enforcement.  Instead, the Budget re-announces policy positions that were originally announced in December or in the Liberals’ 2015 election platform.

“The Liberals are continuing to delay while migrant workers continue to face exploitation,” says Sharmeen Khan, Coordinator of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “The Budget acknowledges that migrant workers need protection for their rights to decent work and that migrant workers need access to permanent residency.  But the Budget doesn’t actually deliver any policy response to address these long-standing demands or dedicate resources to meaningful proactive rights enforcement,” says Khan.  “Migrant workers raised many important concerns in the TFWP review and the Liberals need to address them in a real way that delivers real change.”

Under the new budget, workers in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and the Caregiver and Temporary Foreign Worker Programs will continue to have their work permits tied to one employer. Furthermore, the exemption to “caps” in low-wage seasonal industries means further exploitation and precarity for migrant workers in sectors such as fisheries where an unlimited number of migrant workers are only hired for 6 months on a non-renewable permit.

The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development (HUMA) recommended in its 2016 review of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program that the government develop open work permits and pathways to permanent residency  for temporary foreign workers. Yet despite these clear recommendations, the Liberal government has refused to overhaul this deeply unjust and exploitative condition on Canada’s most marginalized workforce. While the government claims to continue investigating ways to developing pathways to permanent residency, no details or resources were given in the budget regarding how this work would be done.

“The vulnerability and violence we experience is a result of tied work permits,” says Gabriel Alahuda, a member of Justice for Migrant Workers. “I should be able to complain about my employer, or if needed leave and find other work without the fear of deportation. Without open work permits and permanent status, we are forced to stay in abusive working conditions.”

The Canadian government had an opportunity to rectify decades of abuse and mistreatment by ensuring that migrant workers have the same labour rights afforded to other workers. However, the failure of the government to protect this workforce reveals that the government’s priority is to maintain an exploitative and racist policy that provides a cheap, exploitable workforce for employers and disproportionately exploits workers of colour and women.
If the government is committed to building a “better future for temporary foreign workers” they must meet with migrant workers to develop direct paths to permanent residency, eliminate work permits tied to one employer and develop stronger enforcement to protect migrant workers from abuse. But so far, migrant workers and advocates have been waiting for over a year with no real commitment from the current Liberal government  to better the lives and working conditions for migrant workers.

For more information on our demands, please check go to our petition here.

Canada-wide migrant worker coalition calls on Trudeau to MoVE for Real Change

Newly launched Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights – Canada calls for end to discrimination against migrant workers. Press conferences in:

·         Charlottetown – 200 Richmond Street, 11am, Oct 28, 2015.

·         Edmonton – 14931 107 Avenue, 3:30pm, Oct 28, 2015.

·         Montreal – I.W.C, 4755 Van Horne, 10am, Oct 28, 2015.

·         Toronto – Suite 223, 720 Spadina, 11am, Oct 28, 2015.

·         Vancouver – 550 W 6th Avenue #100, 9am, Oct 28, 2015.

Online petition at www.migrantrights.ca

October 28, 2015, Canada – Migrant worker groups from across Canada are launching a historic coalition today to call on Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to end the discriminatory practice of tying migrant workers to specific employers and transition towards permanent immigration status upon arrival for migrant workers. The Coalition for Migrant Workers Rights – Canada  (CMWRC) is launching MoVE – a campaign for Mobility, Voice and Equality for Migrant Workers to call on Prime Minister Trudeau to keep his campaign promises to undo the harm done by the Harper government and to move towards a single-tier immigration system based on permanency and family reunification to ensure decent work for all.

Low-waged migrant workers are restricted to only working for the specific employer listed on their work permit. Changing employers is extremely difficult. This allows bad bosses to lower salaries and hold workers hostage to poor working conditions and threaten deportation when workers speak out. These practices lower standards for everyone in the labour market. A first step to ending this downward cycle is to untie work permits so workers have the ‘mobility’ to leave employers who exploit them. The next step must be to reorient the system towards secure, permanent immigration that protects ‘voice’ and ‘equality’.

“If we are still under the closed work permit, we feel so small, we are scared. We can’t raise our voice louder,” says Mariyah Fitriyanti, a Live-In Caregiver who recently transitioned from a closed permit to an open permit. “I have an open work permit now. Open work permit is good for us. We can change the employer without them abusing us further. With the open work permit, we feel free.”

“Mr. Trudeau has promised real change, and an immigration system that welcomes and values all of us and that means untied work permits and permanent immigration status upon landing,” adds Senthil Thevar, who was a Temporary Foreign Worker in Ontario.

“Over the past decade, deep changes were made to Canada’s immigration system that bring migrant workers into the country with temporary status under conditions that predictably leave them vulnerable to exploitation by employers and recruiters,” says labour and human rights lawyer Fay Faraday. “Tied work permits, mandatory removal after four years and lack of pathways to permanent status drive real precariousness for migrant workers.  There is an opportunity now for a fresh start to rebuild the system on principles of security, decent work and permanence.”

“Workers across Canada are facing precarious, low-wage jobs and tough economic times,” says Naveen Mehta, UFCW Canada’s general counsel, and director of human rights. “Too often we have blamed immigrants for unemployment in these times of economic downturn. Justin Trudeau can put forward a positive decent job agenda that raises standards for all workers, and end the arbitrary exclusion of migrant workers.”

MoVE Demands

·      Regulatory changes to make it easier for migrant workers to move between jobs thereby improving working and living conditions for Canadian born and migrant workers. Specifically:

o   Transition from tied work permits to open work permits

o   Remove limits on work permits and restrictions on Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA) including a 4-year time limit on workers ability to stay.

·      Permanent resident immigration status upon arrival for migrant workers.

WHO: Founding members of CMWRC:

●  Cooper Institute (PEI)

●  Migrant Workers Alliance for Change*

●  Migrante Canada

●  Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (Okanagan Valley)

●  Temporary Foreign Workers Association in Quebec

●  Temporary Foreign Workers Coalition in Alberta

●  Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregiver Rights

Media Contacts:

Toronto – Syed Hussan, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, 416 453 3632, Karen Cocq, 416-531-0778 ext. 221 (pour les français)

Charlottetown – Josie Baker, Cooper Institute, 902-894-4573

Edmonton – Dhon Mojica, Migrante Canada, 780-716-3809

Montreal – ATTET Quebec <attetquebec@gmail.com>Vancouver – Jane Ordinario, MIGRANTE-BC, 604-961-7794; Julie Diesta, Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers & Caregivers Rights, 778-881-8345; Natalie Drolet, West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association, 604-445-0661

Migrants and allies “plant justice” at Immigration offices

Sunday, March 29th, 2pm
Citizenship and Immigration Canada Toronto headquarters
55 St. Clair East. 

Toronto – Over a 100 migrant workers and supporters in Toronto will be planting seedlings and food at Immigration Canada headquarters to insist that migrant workers are rooted in communities. The “plant-in”, part of actions taking place in 8 cities across the country, calls for an end to the so-called “4 and 4 rule”, and for permanent immigration status for migrant workers. A live band will accompany the planting on Sunday afternoon.

Over 3,000 people have also signed a petition.

“Many of the people who are being forcibly uprooted on April 1st have lived in the country for longer than 4 years. They have families, friends, and relationships,” says Liza Draman from the Caregivers Action Centre. “Workers already face abuse from employers and recruiters because of bad provincial and federal laws, Pulling them away from their communities on top of that is unjust, inhumane and arbitrary.”

Approximately 70,000 low-waged workers in the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and Live-In Caregiver program are impacted by the 4 and 4 regulations, which bars the renewal of work permits past four years. The clock on the first 4 years started on April 01, 2011, but many workers have been in Canada for years prior to that.

“These laws aren’t good for workers or employers,” says Syed Hussan of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “It doesn’t serve anyone’s purpose to remove a trained workforce, and replace it with new workers that are less aware of their rights. Why does growing roots in Canada and holding down a job for four years result in deportation?  This mass deportation is classic economic mismanagement and is frankly irrational.”

People working low-wage jobs in service, retail, caregiving, manufacturing and agriculture among others are not able to immigrate to Canada permanently under existing federal law. At the same time, the Parliamentary Budget Officer recently noted that the number of Canadian citizens in “low-skilled” jobs has dropped by 26% between 2002 and 2013, highlighting the need for permanents immigrants in these sectors.

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The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) is Canada’s largest migrant worker rights coalition with 15 national and community groups.

www.migrantworkersalliance.org

MWAC is part of the Campaign Against the 4 Year Limit on Migrant Workers which is made up of 19 organizations across Canada. Its demands have been endorsed by nearly a dozen major national groups.

www.no4and4.tumblr.com

Parliamentary Budget Officer adds note of reason to TFW debate. Time to re-focus on migrant worker needs.

Media Contact:
Syed Hussan, Cell: 416 453 3632, Email: hussans@migrantworkersalliance.org

Toronto — The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, Canada’s largest coalition of migrant worker rights groups, is pleased with the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s (PBO) report released today entitled: Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada: A look at regions and occupational skill which adds a note of reason to debates around Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada.

“This report is resounding evidence that the hysteria around migrant workers stealing jobs from Canadian citizens is misplaced,” says Syed Hussan, Coordinator of MWAC. “In fact, there is a great need for low-skilled migrant workers to come to Canada, lay roots and settle permanently. It’s time to shift the dialogue to ensuring migrant workers are accorded rights to permanent residency by the Federal government as well as simultaneous provincial reforms where migrant workers are provided with equal access to provinicial labour rights and social entitlements The first step to this is ending the unjust 4 and 4 rule that uproots migrant workers who have worked in Canada for four years.

The PBO found:

  • At their peak, Temporary Foreign Workers make up 1.8% of the entire Canadian labour force.
  • Between 2002 and 2013, Canada’s low-skilled workforce declined by 26%
  • While low-skilled citizen workers experienced a large increase in unemployment following the recession, their number was essentially back at its pre-recession low by 2013.
  • Most low-skilled temporary foreign workers are in smaller cities where the number of low-skilled Canadian workers is often lower than the national average.
  • In general, there is insufficient data to show the relationship between foreign workers and labour shortages.

Important background:

  • The reported unemployment rate in Canada is 6.6%
  • At the end of 2013, there were over 1.3 million unemployed Canadian citizens and only 53,953 low-skilled foreign workers in the country.
  • Migrant workers pay all taxes into the system, but are denied full employment insurance, pensions; and access to subsidized housing, post-secondary education, and skills training.