August 2, 2021 - No.
Status for All!
Uphold the Rights of All!
Demonstration Demanding Full Status for All a Resounding Success
• Trudeau Government's New Self-Serving
Regulations for Temporary Foreign Workers
- Steve Rutchinski
• Fight in Quebec for Free Health Care
Coverage for Workers with Precarious Migratory Status and Their Families
- Diane Johnston
Status for All!
Uphold the Rights of All!
On July 25, more
than 3,000 people marched through the streets of Ottawa demanding that
the Canadian government grant full and permanent status to all
migrants. Migrants and supporters came to Ottawa from many parts of the
country, including Toronto and Montreal. The demonstration marched past
the U.S. Embassy, through the Bytown Market and made a stop at the
Prime Minister's Office on its way to Parliament Hill. As one of the
speakers at the rally emphasized, "Migrants are essential to our
society, essential to our communities. We work here. We live here. But
we are denied equal treatment. We are treated like second class
citizens. We are fighting for our rights!"
march in Ottawa was the culmination of a week of militant actions by
migrant workers, their defence organizations and their supporters to
advance their campaign for Status for All!
Throughout the week, activists held actions in various neighbourhoods
in Montreal to promote the campaign and to mobilize for the march in
week of action kicked off with a mass action in Montreal on July 18.
Over 200 people gathered at 11 am at Hector-Toe-Blake Park near Atwater
Metro. For over an hour and a half, participants marched through
downtown Montreal, ending at the offices of Quebec Premier
François Legault on McGill College Avenue.
Montreal march July 18,
2021, kicks off a week of actions leading up to Ottawa march
Participants were informed that Canada has rejected double the
number of applications for permanent residence based on Humanitarian
and Compassionate grounds, increasing from 35 per cent in 2019 to
nearly 70 per cent in the first quarter of 2021. The conclusion: a real
regularization program for all is needed. Many undocumented workers
spoke about their situation. Mostafa Heneway, a community organizer
with the Immigrant Workers Centre, underscored that "status for all is
simply a necessity. [...] It will allow people to live with basic
dignity, people who have already contributed, already suffered and
people who also aren't going to beg anymore. This is why this movement
is so critical, because status for all [...] is going to happen because
migrants are organizing themselves and we're here to support them. Un
status pour tous! We'll see it if we support those who are
Undocumented and Migrant Workers
Worsen Under Pandemic
The dire conditions and negation of rights
facing migrant workers has worsened during the pandemic and must be
taken up for solution by all working people.
The Migrant Rights
Network explains the aim of its Status For All!
campaign as follows:
country migrants have been organizing for full and permanent
immigration status for all. Massive wins have been secured, but there
is still a crucial final step. We will not stop until everyone has full
and permanent immigration status, with no exceptions. We will leave no
It explained in its call for the march
"At least 14 farmworkers have died in
Canada this year. Another half a dozen international students have died
by suicide. Migrants have always been in crisis but this crisis has
worsened during COVID-19. Migrants have lost work and wages during the
crisis but many have been shut out of emergency supports. Those already
without wages have been abandoned. They cannot pay rent, have faced
starvation, lost life savings and are sacrificing essential health care.
"Others have been forced to keep working or return to work in
dangerous conditions. Migrants on farms, in greenhouses, meat and food
processing plants and factories have been hit with massive COVID-19
outbreaks. Migrant care workers remain trapped in the homes of their
employers, facing greater surveillance, abuse and violence. Migrant
students, working in low-wage jobs in warehouses and as delivery
drivers, have had their tuition fees hiked to subsidize Canadian
universities and colleges.
"In 2020, Canada closed
its borders even to refugees. But in the same year more people were
deported by the federal government than in any of the previous five
years. Even life-saving health care, including vaccines, are being
denied to many migrants.
million people in Canada, 1 in 23 residents, are without permanent
resident status. Many are excluded from health care and social services
and cannot unite with their families. Lack of permanent resident status
makes it difficult, and often impossible, for migrants to speak up for
their rights or access services, including those they may be eligible
for, because of a well-founded fear of reprisals, termination, eviction
"Bad employers and institutions
use immigration status as a tool to divide and pit workers against each
other -- citizens against non-citizens -- to keep wages low and profits
high. Full immigration status for all is an essential step towards
eliminating inequalities in the workplace and necessary for a
transition to a just and sustainable economy of care."
On July 26, one
day after a lively very successful demonstration converged in Ottawa,
organized by migrant rights advocacy groups, to call for equal rights,
equal access to services and Status for All!
migrant workers, the Trudeau government announcement that it will pass
new regulations "to improve protection of temporary foreign workers."
It is a cynical ploy to curry votes in an upcoming election when in
fact the government's intention is to secure the supply of cheap
migrant unprotected labour for agribusiness. Their cynicism is such
they say the new regulations will make "our" food supply chain more
secure -- when in fact most of the agricultural production of the
mega-corporations involved in Ontario, BC and Quebec is shipped south
to the U.S. and reimported to Canada in the form of ketchup and other
The proposed new regulations are
said to be about improving protections for temporary foreign workers in
employment contracts, housing, health care and to weed out "bad actors"
that take advantage of the vulnerability of migrant workers. The
Trudeau Liberals point to changes made earlier this year that allow
migrants with employer-specific work permits to change employers and to
start work while a new permit is being processed. The government has
even created a Job Bank bulletin board that connects eligible employers
with temporary migrant workers looking to change jobs.
benefit to the workers is only incidental to government pay-the-rich
schemes. Last year, for example, the federal government gave the
agribusiness monopolies $50 million toward the cost of the mandatory
14-day self-isolation public health requirement for incoming migrant
farm workers. This year the federal government will give them another
$35 million in Emergency on Farm Support to upgrade the living
accommodations of migrant workers.
monopolies had great difficulty hiring migrant workers last year, due
to the global pandemic. In March 2020 there were 43 per cent fewer
temporary migrant agricultural worker arrivals in Canada, compared to
the same period the year before. These workers were compelled to work
dangerous and intolerable hours -- 15-hour days, 7-day weeks. Migrant
Workers Alliance for Change reported more than 1,100 such overtime pay
complaints between March and May of 2020 with not a single worker
compensated. Will the federal government make sure these workers are
Workplace injuries soared.
Even with the reduced numbers of migrant farm workers, bunkhouse
accommodations were still overcrowded. COVID-19 outbreaks were common.
Migrant workers died as a result. The longstanding lack of access to
medical services for migrant farm workers only compounded the
situation. The new regulations are said to require all employers to
provide reasonable access to healthcare services, and for employers to
provide health insurance when needed but what that means in practice
remains to be seen. It is a far cry from guaranteeing health care as a
pledged to launch a discussion on migrant farmworker housing and
allocated more funding for inspections of existing accommodations. In
2018 a federally commissioned study found "a wide variation of what is
deemed as acceptable housing standard" and "gaps in the housing
inspection process" that "can potentially cause harm or injury to the
workers." That study could not avoid the elephant in the room that
there is no national standard for temporary migrant farmworker housing.
Even when inspections find housing unsafe there are no repercussions
because there are no enforceable standards. What more needs to be
discussed before the workers' rights to adequate housing are enforced?
The "bad actor" in this whole scenario is the Canadian state
and its systemic discrimination and denial of the human rights of
migrants. Migrants are made vulnerable, denied equal rights and denied
equal access to services by the very programs the Canadian government
has put in place to serve the needs of the rich. Better regulation of
systemic discrimination does nothing to end the discrimination. The
solution lies in affirming the rights of all. "Status for All!' is the
demand of migrant workers, migrant advocacy organizations and the
Canadian working class.
been the stage of a decades-long battle for free health care coverage
for workers with a precarious migratory status and their families.
In Quebec, successive governments have all intentionally
violated the intent of Quebec's Health Insurance Act
as well the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the
United Nations General Assembly in 1989, to which Canada is a signatory
and which Quebec has endorsed through an order in council. Their
violation of Quebec, Canadian and international law goes so far as to
refuse coverage to the children of workers with a precarious migratory
status born in Quebec, despite the fact that they are Canadian
citizens, while the federal government turns a blind eye.
children are deprived of their right to health care through the refusal
of coverage for them by the Quebec Health Insurance Board (RAMQ), which
is directly accountable to the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Adding insult to injury, in 1992 under the Quebec Liberal
government, a 200 per cent surcharge for medical fees was applied and
continues to be billed to the parents of these children.
Quebec's Ombudsman, many advocacy groups have been fighting for the
right to health care for all children living in Quebec including
Doctors of the World Canada, the Quebec Immigration Lawyers Association
(AQAADI), the Early Childhood Observatory, the Caring for Social
Justice Collective, the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights
Commission, the Roundtable of Groups in the Service of Refugees and
Immigrations (TCRI) and the list goes on.
a class action law suit awaits a hearing date at Quebec's Court of
Appeal on behalf of a couple, their daughter and all children who are
Canadian citizens living in Quebec who have been denied access to
health coverage through the RAMQ as a result of their parents'
immigration status. The action, first filed on July 9 of last year at
the Superior Court, alleges that the exclusion of these children is
contrary to Quebec's Health Insurance Act and that
it violates the fundamental rights of these Canadian children,
including their rights to life, security and integrity as protected by
the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and
the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
They further argue that this government practice is discriminatory.
Medical fees of close to $7,000 were billed to the mother of
the child upon giving birth. An additional fee of $2,500 was also sent
for the night the baby spent in hospital after her birth. Shortly
thereafter the child had health issues requiring hospitalization,
resulting in a new bill of close to $15,000. No refund is forthcoming
as access to the RAMQ was refused for the baby, despite the fact that
she is a Canadian citizen. Such practices are "completely illegal" says
the couple's lawyer. Damages and interest are also being claimed for
all families that are part of the class action lawsuit targeting the
Ministry of Health and Social Services, which was contested by Quebec's
Then surprisingly, on December 10
of last year, on the occasion of International Human Rights Day,
Christian Dubé, Quebec Minister of Health and Social
Services, introduced Bill 83, "An Act respecting mainly the
health insurance plan and presscription drug insurance plan eligibility
of certain children whose parents' migratory status is precarious".
Having received royal sanction on June 11, the legislation is to go
into effect by government decree between now and the end of September.
Through the new legislation, most children in Quebec of
parents with a precarious migratory status will finally be provided
health care coverage free of charge. This includes all children born in
Quebec as well as children accompanying their parents who have a study
permit, a visitor's permit longer than six months, a work permit not
tied to a specific employer, or in an irregular immigration situation,
in other words, without legal status.
A little over
a month after the bill had been introduced, on January 18 of this year,
the Superior Court issued a judgment granting a motion from the
Attorney General of Quebec for declinatory exception seeking the
dismissal of the Class action. The Superior Court concluded that it did
not have jurisdiction to hear this class action, declaring that
applicants should instead apply to the Administrative Tribunal of
So on the one hand, the Legault government
is expanding health care coverage for most children of parents with
precarious migratory status for so-called reasons of equity and
fairness and on the other is fighting in the courts against
compensating the parents of children deprived of their basic human
right to health care, not to mention the denial of that right for
themselves even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
since May of 2018, Quebec's Ombudsman, Marie Rinfret, has been decrying
the fact that the RAMQ has been using "a restrictive, if not a faulty,
interpretation of the Act and the Regulation." She has noted that the
RAMQ "correlates their eligibility with their parents' migratory
status" and that these children can be deprived of the health and
social services they need if their parents cannot afford the costs."
In her view, the solution lies in applying the Act as written,
as it "presumes an interpretation of the notion of a child born in
Quebec and settled in Quebec that respects the legislator's intention
to distinguish children's status from their parents' migratory status
for public health plan eligibility purposes."
of this begs the question: Why is the Legault government implementing
amendments to not only the Quebec Health Insurance Act,
and the Act respecting prescription drug insurance,
but also the Regulation respecting eligibility and
registration of persons in respect of the Régie de
l'assurance maladie du Québec and the
Regulation respecting the basic prescription drug insurance plan?
The Legault government and those before them seem intent on
following the same path as their federal counterparts, in this case
through the violation of international, federal and Quebec law and
charters and increasingly adopt regulations they can easily modify
On the issue of the deprivation of
rights, the Legault government, just like its federal counterpart, is
on the defensive and we must continue to hit hard, until such time as
permanent residency status is granted to all migrants with a precarious
status. The dictum "Good Enough To Work, Good Enough To Stay" is a
principle we fight for and defend. Permanent residency in this case
would also give all migrants with precarious status access to health
At the same time, we must remain vigilant
with regard to the manoeuvres being made by both levels of government
and not be taken in by them.
With justice on our
side, the battle for rights must be played out on all fronts, including
in the election arena both federally, most probably this year, as well
at the Quebec level next year.
Our battle cry must
be for our own empowerment as human beings and our right to determine
our own affairs.
Nothing short of that will
guarantee our success, so let's all join in!
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