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.