June 2, 2020 - No. 38

Uphold the Rights of
Temporary Foreign Workers and Asylum Seekers

All Out to Demand Rights and
Full Status for All Workers!


Montreal Mobile Demonstration
Permanent Residence for Migrants
and Asylum Seekers Now

Saturday, June 6 -- 11:00 am-1:00 pm

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Constituency Office
1100 Crémazie East
Join in by car, bicycle and on foot with social distancing
Organized by Debout pour la dignité

• Militant Action Demands Permanent Residency for Migrants and Asylum Seekers
• Demands for Special Program to Regularize the Status of Asylum Seekers Working to Fight COVID-19
• House of Commons Rejects Motions Calling for Regularization of Status for Frontline Essential Workers
• Unity in Action Gives Rise to Partial About-Face on Immigration Policy

Rights and Full Status for All Workers

Militant Action Demands Permanent Residency
for Migrants and Asylum Seekers

On Saturday, May 23, activists staged a protest outside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's constituency office to demand permanent residency for migrants and refugee claimants. More than 100 protesters were on the scene in accordance with physical distancing measures, others participated on bicycles, while still others joined a caravan of 200 vehicles that circled, honking their horns.

The action was organized by Stand Up for Dignity. It followed an open letter to the Prime Minister, May 7, calling for the regularization of the precarious status of migrants and asylum seekers. These people, protesters noted, have been working in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) and retirement homes since the beginning of the pandemic crisis. They work as patient attendants, security guards, etc. If asylum seekers are good enough to work in essential services, they are also good enough to stay as permanent residents in Canada, the protesters emphasized.

Frantz André, from the Action Committee on Non-Status Persons (CAPSS), explained: "We have a mobile demonstration right now asking Justin Trudeau's government  for a regularization program leading to permanent residency for those who continue to go out into the street and take care of our seniors. These people are taking the risk of  having themselves and their families infected and contaminated. They are recognized as guardian angels. They are human beings before being guardian angels, and we hope that in being guardian angels, they do not die.

"Mr. Trudeau and the other Members of Parliament have a duty to provide this regularization program. We know that this has been done in the past and that it can be done again. Show your solidarity with the Haitian community and others who also have people going into seniors' centres, CHSLDs and private residences. We had Mr. François Marcelin, one of our compatriots, working two jobs to take care of his family, his wife and three children, who in the span of a few days contracted COVID-19. He died in the arms of his wife on April 16. His spouse now wants to return to Haiti because she feels that Canada abandoned him, did not give him permanent residence and did not take care of her husband."

Many people spoke out during the action, including Dr. Wilner Cayo, the representative of Stand Up for Dignity, who said: "You are on the front lines, you are being exploited by predatory agencies. You are being forgotten by a government swimming in surpluses. But you continue to show up to take care of our seniors. In no time at all you have become our guardian angels. You have been loudly and widely acclaimed by provincial and federal governments which, although they praise you, refuse to treat you as human beings. We have come to tell you that you are full-fledged human beings. We are proud of your dedication.

"You are hauled around from centre to centre, where your life is placed at risk so that the lives of others can be saved. Yet, many amongst yourselves who care for our elders are denied the care that every normal citizen is entitled to. Your children, even those born here in Quebec, are not eligible for subsidized child care. Governments are taking extraordinary measures in these extraordinary times, but not for you. You fear that afterwards you will be sacrificed and deported. With good reason. Anything is possible when petty politics takes precedence over humanist values.

"You're exploited by agencies and you feel you're being used by governments. You fear that once the pandemic is over, you will have been considered nothing more than cannon fodder within this system that takes advantage of you. Your work is exemplary, you even pay for it with your life. Several of your colleagues have died an anonymous death, like Marcelin François, a patient attendant who died in combat. Were fate to strike, you would be left without any savings to leave behind because at minimum wage you cannot afford decent housing. Your socio-economic context is more than precarious. Why should you have to continue to endure the fear of deportation?

"Gentlemen First Ministers, stop passing the buck. Actually recognize the guardian angels; not in word but in deed. You've taken many exceptional measures, extraordinary decisions. Granting permanent residency to these migrants would be a sensible and coherent thanks to these people. Quebec needs them and they need Quebec, so let's show solidarity. This is not charity; they deserve it.

"François Legault said that Quebec was lucky to have them, but are they the unlucky ones in having this kind of leader in power? Thank them by doing the right thing, by supporting this initiative and granting permanent residency to these brave men and women. It's a matter of dignity."

Organizers are planning other actions in defence of migrant workers and asylum seekers, many of whom are of Haitian origin, who live in Montreal North, considered one of the boroughs the most affected by COVID-19 in Montreal.


For a video of the intervention at the May 23 action by Frantz André of CAPSS, click here.

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Demands for Special Program to Regularize
the Status of Asylum Seekers Working
to Fight COVID-19

As part of the effort to uphold the rights of asylum seekers and temporary foreign workers who are on the front line of fighting COVID-19, the just demand that the Quebec and federal governments create a special program that would regularize the status of these workers in this country deserves everyone's support.

House of Commons e-petition e-2600 (Citizenship and Immigration), initiated by Arcelle Appolon from Montreal, opened for signature on May 12. It was sponsored by NDP Member of Parliament Alexandre Boulerice (Rosemont--La Petite-Patrie). As of May 28, it has been signed by 2,643 Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Those interested in signing it have until June 11 to do so. To sign the petition, click here.

Petition to the Prime Minister


- The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation for all residents of Canada and requires a war-level effort to face down this merciless enemy;

- We are fighting to protect ourselves and, above all, the most vulnerable, namely, seniors, people with a chronic illness and less fortunate neighbourhoods;

- Despite the chronic insecurity of their precarious status in Canada, asylum seekers play a key role in essential services and, more specifically, in Quebec's Long Term Care Homes (CHSLD) and seniors' homes hit hard by COVID-19;

- In exceptional circumstances, these individuals are contributing their skills, dedication and dignity to help us fight this pandemic while risking their own health and that of their family; and

- Expelling these guardian angels from the country as soon as the battle is won would run counter to our values as Quebeckers and Canadians.

We, the undersigned, Citizens of Canada and members of the Concertation haïtienne pour les migrantes, call upon the Prime Minister to show leadership by implementing a special program to regularize the status of asylum seekers working to fight COVID-19, and therefore supporting the health and safety of all Canadians, for humanitarian reasons.

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House of Commons Rejects Motions Calling
for Regularization of Status for
Frontline Essential Workers

On May 25 following debate in the House of Commons, NDP MP for Rosemont--La-Petite-Patrie Alexandre Boulerice rose on a point of order and made the following statement: "Mr. Speaker, if you seek it I believe you will find unanimous consent of the House to adopt the following motion: that this House recognize the contribution of hundreds of essential workers, particularly in the health care sector, in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, who are asylum seekers, and call on the government to work with the Government of Quebec in order to quickly regularize their immigration status as well as that of their family in recognition of the work done during the current health crisis."

Speaker of the House Anthony Rota, Liberal MP for Nipissing--Timiskaming, then asked if Boulerice had the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion, to which some of the members responded "no," thereby rejecting his motion.

Christine Normandin, Bloc Québécois MP for the riding of Saint-Jean, then rose on a point of order and made the following statement: "Mr. Speaker, I seek the consent of the House to move the following motion: that this House recognize the contribution of hundreds of essential workers, particularly in the health care sector, in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, who are asylum seekers, and call on the government to work with the Government of Quebec and the rest of Canada in order to prioritize and fast-track their file as well as that of their family in recognition of the work done during the current health crisis."

After House Speaker Rota noted that this was essentially the same motion, he asked if the Bloc member had the unanimous consent of the House, to which some Conservative Party members responded "no," thereby defeating her motion.

(Canadian Parliament, House of Commons)

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Unity in Action Gives Rise to Partial About-Face
on Immigration Policy

As a result of the efforts of the many organizations across Quebec and Canada to uphold the rights of asylum seekers and temporary foreign workers on the front line of fighting COVID-19, both the Quebec and federal governments have been forced into a partial retreat on their abhorrent treatment of asylum seekers and migrant workers.

The following is an update on what has transpired over the past week or so.

Enter the Premier of Quebec

On May 21, a journalist commented to Premier Legault that there are increasing calls "for asylum seekers who are also front line workers, to be able to stay in Canada." The journalist continued, "My question to you would be why are you not pushing for this yourself and what do you make of those calls?"

"These are two different issues," Legault responded, "I want to be clear. I am very, very happy about the work that is done by some of them in our residences. We need them, we are lucky to have them, so it's very fine." The Premier then pointed out that it is the federal government that determines whether or not someone is accepted as an immigrant.

"We have to be careful," Legault continued. Specifically referring to those going through Roxham Road or other irregular crossings, he said: "We cannot open the door to say [that] if you come illegally, if you find a job, that's okay, I will accept you as an immigrant. That's not the way it works. There are some rules [...] for the people who would like to become immigrants and there are some rules regarding the asylum seekers regarding their rights in the country where they are coming from." He concluded, "I think it's important to respect the rules."

Four days later during his press briefing on May 25, Legault made the following statement: "I want to tell you how grateful we are to all those who have gone to work in the CHSLDs [residential and long-term care centres] over the past two-and-a-half months, including asylum seekers." He said: "What must be understood is that asylum seekers are people who entered Canada and the criteria as to whether or not they will be accepted as refugees is to determine if their physical safety is in danger in their country. [Of course the Premier conveniently bypasses the fact that  specifically with regard to their work in the CHSLDs, because of government irresponsibility at all levels here in Canada, their lives are also at risk here -- WF Ed. Note] It has always been that. [...] However, I have specifically requested that Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette look into this on a case-by-case basis, to see if we are able to have them recognized as immigrants and welcome them here, not as refugees but as immigrants. We will therefore be analyzing this on a case-by-case basis. Of course, this is a way of saying thank you to them."

Questioned on why he had changed his mind, the Premier responded: "I haven't changed my mind. What I say is that we have two different matters. [Regarding] asylum seekers, I want to be careful, I don't want to send the message that in the future we will accept everybody if they find a job in Quebec. That's the situation. But we also have another situation where it's really critical to get more people working in our CHSLD[s]. So those people [...] are already working in CHSLDs, so how can we bring them via the normal immigration process. That's what I'm looking [into]. Of course we'll have to have discussion also with the federal government. But it won't be as asylum seekers, because [...] in order [for asylum seekers] to be accepted, they have to prove that their physical situation is in danger in their country. That's a different story."

Enter the Prime Minister of Canada

The following day, Prime Minister Trudeau was questioned by a journalist as to whether his government was ready to commit to dealing with the applications of Haitian asylum seekers working in CHSLDs. His response was that for weeks now, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has been hard at work on the issue. "We know that there are extraordinary people who are doing heroic work in our long-term care centres and that we must look into how we can assist them and we are in the process of looking into that situation closely."

Questioned as to whether he agreed with the principle of either regularizing the status of certain persons, accelerating the processing of their applications or shifting them over to immigration status applications to thank them as Quebec appeared to be asking, Trudeau answered: "For a long time now we've recognized to what point people coming into the country contribute to our safety and our success as a country. Our government has always been open to immigration and has always valued people who come here. With regard to asylum seekers who have arrived irregularly but who work in our CHSLDs, who carry out heroic work in protecting Canadians, we are in the process of looking into how we can recognize that work and maybe speed up the process [...]."

The journalist commented, "I sense that there has been a change in position. Around a week or so ago, your Deputy Prime Minister, Ms. Freeland, told us that we are a rule of law country and that the procedure had to be respected, so I understand that you may now be ready to circumvent the present procedure in order to thank them."

"We are in a particular and exceptional situation," Trudeau replied. "The COVID-19 crisis demands that we revisit certain things. Of course our immigration system is anchored in respecting procedures and fairness and equality for everyone. It's important that procedures are followed but within this exceptional situation, we can of course consider exceptions."

Another journalist asked Trudeau what his evaluation was, in terms of the number of irregular asylum seekers whose status could be recognized. The Prime Minister responded, "I think that people recognize that the heroes who are doing exceptional work within an extremely difficult situation should receive certain recognition. However, we have an immigration system that is robust and rigorous and complex, therefore the Minister of Immigration is carefully looking into it. As to the details regarding such an approach, we understand that there is a willingness on the part of the population to recognize and thank these people, however, we must ensure that this is done in the proper manner and in due form."

Enter the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was asked later that day to further clarify her government's newly adopted position on regularizing the situation of certain refugee claimants working in CHSLDs.

"As the Prime Minister said today, Canada is a country built on immigration and our government is very open towards and welcoming of immigrants. We understand that there is a very specific situation right now where many people in Canada and in Quebec are particularly grateful to the refugee claimants who are doing such important work taking care of our elders. People are grateful, people want to express that gratitude and we really understand that. We know also that it's very important in all issues, very much including immigration, to do things properly and carefully [...]

"The specific issue which we feel that people are most concerned with at the moment is the asylum seekers who are doing absolutely essential and extraordinary work right now. That being said," Freeland concluded, "this is a major issue and Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, as the Prime Minister said, is in the process of looking into the issue. And as I said, we must, we will do it in close collaboration with Quebec."

(CPAC. Translated from the original French by TML.)

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