Heartbreaking sketchbook of over a hundred migrant children drawings shines spotlight on family separation on Family Day

Migrants and undocumented people call on Prime Minister Trudeau to keep his promise to regularize everyone and ensure permanent resident status for all. 

Toronto, February 20, 2023 — Evocative drawings by children of migrants separated from their families for decades and from those fearing family separation because of possible deportations were launched today, Family Day, at a pop-up art exhibit outside the Toronto office of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. Photographs of the drawings have been put together into a sketchbook by Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and were also mailed to every Member of Parliament. 

The drawings from children as young as two years old include inscriptions about family separation and fear. A migrant farmworker’s child wrote, “I miss my dad so much. I wish I could be with him in Canada, reunite our broken family, finish my schooling and make my dad proud.” An undocumented child wrote, “I am six years old, I have no friends, I can’t register in school because I have no status. Please help all the kids in Canada to get an education.”

Sarom Rho, spokesperson for Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, explained, “Permanent resident status is the mechanism through which families can be united and everyone has equal rights; without it migrants are separated and in crisis. We are sending these drawings by migrant children to Prime Minister Trudeau and every Member of Parliament to remind them of the cost of their decision and urge them to keep their promise, ensure permanent resident status for all, and stop the suffering.”

Olufunke Ajileye, a 32 year old mother from Nigeria, was slated to speak at the art exhibit but was detained by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) over the weekend. She shared the following statement, “In 2017, after living here for 6 years, the government tried to deport me without my children. When I was at the airport waiting to be reunited with them, the CBSA officer said he will make sure I never set eyes on my children again. I had a panic attack and was rushed to the hospital. A few months later, they told me I can put my Canadian-born child in foster care while I and my other child go back to Nigeria. This is family separation. No mother should ever be forced to be separated from her children. Permanent residency keeps families together. Prime Minister Trudeau promised regularization, we need status for all now.”

In December 2021, Prime Minister Trudeau promised regularization in his mandate letter. Every migrant group in Canada and over 500 major civil society, labour and environmental organizations have been urging the Prime Minister to keep his promise and create a comprehensive regularization program that is uncapped (no arbitrary quotas or caps); which includes all undocumented people (including failed refugee claimants); allows migrants to apply for permanent resident status (instead of forcing them into temporary immigration programs) and does not have any unfair exclusions. See: www.migrantrights.ca/resources/regularization-in-canada/

Cindy Carlos is a migrant care worker from the Philippines who came to Canada in 2010 as a live-in caregiver. Holding a drawing from her son this morning, holding back tears, she said, “After I finished my 24 months of work experience, I applied for permanent residency and was denied because of an officer’s mistake. But their mistake cost me my status. And without status, it feels like my hands and feet are tied up. We don’t have freedom. Everyday I live in fear of deportation and discrimination. Prime Minister Trudeau, untie this knot and give status to everyone! No exclusions!”

Canada created new family work permits for migrants in January but low-waged temporary foreign workers like farmworkers and domestic workers are barred from applying. Migrants can only access equal rights and family unity through permanent resident status but there is no access to permanent residency for most agricultural workers at all; and migrant careworkers must meet impossible conditions like high English language score and education accreditation. 

Jesy Sari is an Indonesian caregiver and mother of two sons who has been in Canada for four years. She added, “Everyday I think about my two sons back home. It’s breaking my heart because I told them to wait for me. But I don’t know until when because I cannot apply for permanent residency because of the high English and education requirements. It’s like a never ending nightmare. We don’t know about our future here in Canada. This is why we need to be united with our kids, our families. We need status now”

SEE THE SKETCHBOOK OF DRAWINGS HERE: www.migrantworkersalliance.org/sketchbook


  • There are over 1.7 million people in Canada without permanent resident status. This includes those on temporary work and study permits (farmworkers, careworkers and current and graduated international students), refugees, and those who are undocumented. Those in low-wages are largely denied access to permanent resident status, and therefore denied equal rights. 
  • Many migrants spend decades in Canada, working and caring for communities but are separated from their loved ones.
  • Migrants are missing birthdays, anniversaries and funerals, or are living in daily fear of being torn away from their families because of deportation which causes psychological and emotional distress, family breakdowns and crises. 
  • Migrants who can apply for permanent resident status are only allowed to sponsor children under the age of 22, however due to difficult requirements and long processing times, by the time migrants are able to apply their children have aged out. Canada does not recognize migrant family structures such as siblings, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews and those not formally adopted for the purpose of family sponsorship. 

About Migrant Workers Alliance for Change

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is Canada’s largest migrant-led organization where migrant farmworkers, careworkers, student workers and undocumented people join together to improve working conditions and immigration and labour laws. Visit us for more information: www.migrantworkersalliance.org

Media contact:
Sarom Rho, 416-887-8315, sarom@migrantworkersalliance.org