June 18, 2021 - No. 58

June 20
Join Cross-Country Day of Action 

Full and Permanent Immigration
Status for All!

• Permanent Status for All!
• Cross-Country Day of Action

Conditions of Migrant Workers
One in Thirty People on Earth Are International Migrants
Canada's Reliance on Migrant Labour
• Essential Services and Industries Depend on International Migrants
The Contribution of Agricultural Migrant Workers
• With Our Deepest Condolences

June 20
Join Cross-Country Day of Action

Permanent Status for All!

June 20 is World Refugee Day. It was so designated by the United Nations in 2001 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. In Canada, the Migrant Rights Network of migrant advocacy organizations and Migrante Canada are marking this occasion to once again give voice to Canadians' demand for Status for All! -- for refugees, students, migrant workers and undocumented people.

The call for full and permanent immigration status is a call for an end to a system of deadly racialized exclusion from rights, protections and dignity, Migrante Canada points out. Referring to the colonial relations Canada maintains with the Indigenous peoples and the crime of genocide committed against them, Migrante writes, amongst other things:

"While Canada was created from theft of land, it now imposes immigration rules to deny rights to us. Primarily racialized and working class migrants are excluded from protections and benefits so that our work can be devalued for the profit of the super rich.

"This week also marks one year since the deaths of Bonifacio Eugenio Romero and Rogelio Muñoz Santos. Virtually nothing has been done to ensure no more migrant farm workers die preventable deaths. Already in 2021, at least nine farm workers have died, six of them in federally regulated quarantine.

"The call for full and permanent immigration status is a call for an end to a system of deadly racialized exclusion from rights, protections and dignity. As migrants, we must demand an end to colonial violence within Canada and throw our support behind struggles for Indigenous rights and liberation.

"We are not simply asking for rights under Canadian laws based on colonialism -- we must challenge the violent and unfair nature of this whole system. We must join together and demand that Canadian laws and policies do not force more people out of their homes anywhere.

"That is why on June 20th -- World Refugee Day and Father's Day -- we will take action for full and permanent immigration status for all."

"Join or organize an action on June 20th near you!

"Together, we will win!"

Join in actions taking place across the country on June 20. Visit the website of the organizers to find out about and support events in your area: MigrantRights.ca.

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Cross-Country Day of Action

The Migrant Rights Network is organizing a day of action on the occasion of World Refugee Day to once more call on the Trudeau government to ensure full and permanent immigration status for all without exception. The federal government's "pathway to permanent residency" for 90,000 people introduced in May 2021 was the result of migrant rights activists across the country speaking out and organizing. The time is now to build on the one year of work since the Migrant Rights Network launched its call for full and permanent immigration status for all.

Notwithstanding the recent measures that have resulted in status for some, the vast majority of working class, racialized and particularly undocumented people are shut out of permanent resident status. As a result, they live without income support, workplace rights or even access to health care in a pandemic. They live under constant threat of deportation. The measures the government has taken have opened the door a crack, migrant workers and their allies are pushing ahead to make space for everyone.

Join an action on June 20th near you or organize one!

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Conditions of Migrant Workers

One in Thirty People on Earth Are
International Migrants

According to the United Nations World Migration Report 2020, there were approximately 25.9 million refugees globally as of 2018. Palestinians registered with United Nations Relief organizations accounted for 5.5 million of that total.

While 25.9 million is a large number, it is less than 10 per cent of the estimated 272 million international migrants in the world in 2019. Out of a global population of 7.7 billion, it means one in every 30 people on earth is an international migrant. It is a staggering statistic. But these are living breathing human beings, with legitimate claims upon society to affirm and guarantee their rights wherever they are, not just where they were born.

India had the largest number of migrants living abroad, 17.5 million people, followed by Mexico and China with 11.8 million and 10.7 million respectively. The top destination country, with 50.7 million international migrants now calling it home, is the United States. It has been so since 1970. Germany, which in 2019 was home to 13.1 million international migrants, is a distant second to the U.S. Regionally, Europe and Asia host 82 million and 84 million international migrants respectively, 61 per cent of the total, while North America collectively accounts for 22 per cent and Africa, 10 per cent.

Economic insecurity is the leading reason why people leave their homes, in search of employment and stability. War, violence and oppression is second to economic insecurity. This phenomenon of hundreds of millions compelled to become international migrants is clearly an expression of a global social order that rains catastrophe down upon the peoples of the world.

It is also the face of a new world in the making, that which is coming into being, of the workers of all lands who regardless of place of origin exist as one working class in whichever country they are living. Migrants, regardless of the status imposed upon them, are part and parcel of the main force for humanizing the social and natural environment. They are "essential workers" as we have seen in Canada during the pandemic. It is in laying claim to that which belongs to them by virtue of being human and advancing the fight for the rights of all that societies will come into being which uphold the rights of all.

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Canada's Reliance on Migrant Labour

The Canadian economy relies upon having hundreds of thousands of foreign migrants available to do work that sustains our economy. More than half of Canada's population has come here from abroad since World War II. Currently, about 22 per cent of Canada's 34.5 million people were born abroad. In the five-year period 2011-2015 an average of 258,170 people a year secured permanent residency while from 2016-2020 the average was 299,400 per year. Canada raised its target to 401,000 for 2021.

Even more foreign workers are brought as temporary migrant workers, including those with a range of skill levels, from post graduate and university students to high-skilled and so-called low-skilled labourers. The Canadian state organizes to bring them here under a variety of programs, often under the promise of permission to apply for permanent residency after arrival. Many are contracted under employer specific work permits that only permit the worker to work for a specific employer. It's akin to indentured labour.

In 2016, the most current data published by Statistics Canada, a total of 613,200 temporary work permits were issued. They fall under two general programs. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program issues employer-specific work permits (ESWP). Private household service workers and agricultural workers fall under this category. They are largely at the mercy of the employer and thus the most vulnerable. Another program called the International Mobility Program issues open work permits (OWP) which are not employer specific.

The breakdown of temporary work permits issued in 2016 was 377,700 OWPs; 135,900 high skilled ESWPs; 117,700 post-graduation work permits; 90,800 International Work Experience Canada permits; 77,800 low skilled ESWPs; and 57,600 student study permits. The rest fall under miscellaneous categories.

The numbers in every category have steadily risen since 2001, with one exception -- humanitarian and compassionate work permits. These have steadily declined from 40,500 in 2001 to 25,700 in 2016. Post-graduation permits by comparison went from 2,400 in 2001 to 117,700 in 2016, while student study permits went from 3,900 to 57,600.

Temporary foreign migrant workers are an integral part of the Canadian working class and contribute immensely to Canadian society. The state-organized discrimination and violation of their rights has to end. No more platitudes from government officials that the work they do is "essential" or that "we are all in this together" while blatantly discriminating against these most vulnerable sections of the Canadian working class. Status for refugees, students, workers and undocumented people -- Status for All! -- is a legitimate demand to humanize our society.

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Essential Services and Industries Depend
on International Migrants

One way to see the dependence of essential services and industries on international migrants is that temporary foreign workers comprise 30 per cent of the workforce in 17 per cent of all employers in private household services and 10 per cent of all employers at gas stations, in food services and at drinking establishments; 6.6 per cent of all food and beverage stores; 5.2 per cent of real estate companies; 4.3 per cent of businesses in accommodation services and 4.2 per cent of all food manufacturing firms.

Looking at these industries as a whole we find 9.8 per cent of the private household service industry workers, 8.0 per cent of gas station workers and 7.2 per cent accommodation and food service workers are temporary foreign workers. In administrative and support services it is 5.8 per cent; animal and aquaculture production 5.6 per cent; 4.3 per cent in warehousing and storage; 3.8 per cent in professional, scientific and technical services. See Chart 1.

Click to enlarge

(With files from: Statistics Canada: The distribution of temporary foreign workers across industries in Canada, June 3, 2020 and Temporary Foreign Workers in the Canadian Labour Force: Open Versus Employer-specific Work Permits, No. 18, 2019)

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The Contribution of Agricultural Migrant Workers

Some industries rely heavily on temporary foreign workers. Canada-wide 27.4 per cent of agricultural workers are foreign migrants. The concentration is even higher in provinces where fruit and vegetable production is centred: 41.6 per cent in Ontario and 30 per cent in Quebec, British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

The agricultural production in Ontario, Quebec, BC and Nova Scotia where these workers are concentrated is a multi-billion dollar business. For example, 48 per cent of Canada's field vegetable production is in Ontario and 38 per cent is in Quebec, generating $569 million and $478 million respectively in 2019. The majority of this production, $729.3 million, is for export.

Seventy-one per cent of greenhouse vegetable production is concentrated in Ontario: tomatoes (37 per cent); peppers (32 per cent) and cucumbers (27 per cent). Seventeen per cent is in British Columbia and seven per cent in Quebec, altogether generating $1.032 billion, $305 million and $148 million respectively. The lion's share of this, $1.108 billion, is for export. Mushroom production is another huge cash crop for export, generating $320.4 million. The top export destination of each of these crops is the United States, which receives 97 per cent of farm gate production value.

The same is true of Canada's fruit production -- 90 per cent of which comes from BC ($467.3 million), Ontario ($303.7 million) and Quebec ($287.2 million). The United States is the top destination of Canada's fruit exports, taking 64.8 per cent, valued at $546.1 million.

Most agricultural workers come under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program on employer specific work permits. Their residency in Canada is restricted to a maximum period of eight months, between January 1 and December 15. This program draws on workers from Mexico and the Caribbean and they must work in specified crop production: apiary products, fruit and vegetable, mushrooms, flowers, nursery-grown trees, pedigreed canola seed, seed corn, grains, oil seeds, maple syrup, sod, tobacco, bovine, dairy, duck, horse, mink, poultry, sheep, or swine.

Many of these workers return year after year, working for the same employer, and while they may be eligible to apply for permanent resident status, the requirement bar is set high so as to prohibit most of these migrant workers from ever obtaining permanent status, should they want to do so. It is not much different than when Canada's racist immigration practices, while not outright excluding people from the Caribbean or Africa from applying for citizenship, made the process impossible for them to navigate successfully.

The Canadian Council for Refugees published a report on a National Forum on Human Trafficking held November 27, 2019 which discussed the conditions of these workers. Among other things it wrote: "Those who come to Canada through the low-skilled stream of the TFWP [Temporary Foreign Worker Program] are at particular risk. They are not allowed to bring their families, they have little access to services offered by large settlement agencies, are often placed in communal living situations, and often with strangers. These situations create many unintended consequences on mental health; many live with anxiety and depression. Their situation also affects their relationships with their families."

The report continued: "Exploitation often begins with the recruiter. This often takes the form of exorbitant recruitment fees as well as abusive and fraudulent practices. Forum participants reported workers being charged $10,000 by recruiters at the onset of their contracts; there have even been cases of workers being asked to pay $50,000 (for airfares, wage deductions, etc.)." The participants called for stronger measures to be put in place to deter, monitor and provide consequences for abusive recruiters.

(With files from: Canadian Council for Refugees, Statistics Canada: Temporary Foreign Workers in the Canadian Labour Force: Open Versus Employer-specific Work Permits, No. 18, 2019)

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With Our Deepest Condolences

Bonifacio Eugenio Romero, 31 - PRESENTE!
Rogelio Muñoz Santos, 24 - PRESENTE!
Juan Lopez Chaparro, 55 - PRESENTE!
Logan Grant, 57 - PRESENTE!
Roberto Jacob Baca Gomez, 38 - PRESENTE!
Jose Antonio Coronado, 44 - PRESENTE!
Romario Morgan, 23 - PRESENTE!
Fausto Ramirez Plazas - PRESENTE!
Aneish Dalbarry, 29 - PRESENTE!
And the workers whose names are unknown - PRESENTE!

Migrant Workers Alliance for Change marks one year since the death from COVID-19 of Ontario farm worker Bonifacio Eugenio Romero and honours him and other farm workers who have died since.

The Alliance states: "We won’t be safe until we have the power to protect ourselves and that means full and permanent immigration status for all! ... As we grieve the loss of our coworkers and comrades, we renew our commitment to organizing for equal rights and justice for all migrant and undocumented people!"

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