Montreal Overnight Camp for Status
As part of the pan-Canadian day of action organized by the Migrant Rights Network, an overnight camp was set up the evening of March 18 in front of the federal government's Immigration and Refugee Board in Montreal, to demand a "fully inclusive regularization program, with no one left behind, NOW."
"For weeks now, the media has not stopped talking about Roxham Road in a distorted way providing fertile ground for racist and xenophobic discourses blaming migrants for all social problems," writes Solidarity Across Borders, in a press release announcing the event. "This is how the wealthy are attempting to distract attention from questions of justice and equality, making migrants into scapegoats, and creating divisions among those excluded from wealth and privilege," it states. It adds that "undocumented migrants are left in the dark and cold of an exclusion that kills without mercy: on the borders, on the streets, slowly over years of exploitation and hard physical work, through lack of health care, and in the constant stress of precarity, family separation and fear of being arrested, detained and deported."
"We don't leave our countries for the pleasure of migrating to Canada, ... We come to Canada seeking refuge from diverse problems. The unjust immigration system makes us vulnerable," say those who are left without status.
"We have waited for a regularization program for more than 14 months, since Trudeau mandated the federal Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser, to regularize undocumented migrants. We also demand permanent residence for all migrants.
"We make these demands in solidarity with unhoused communities, with all who face racial profiling, with exploited workers from all backgrounds, with Indigenous Peoples whose lands have been stolen ... and AGAINST the people who seek to divide, exploit and use us for their own political and financial ends."
Testimonies from Night Camp Participants
Many activists involved in the struggle in defence of migrant rights and for Status For All came by the camp to cheer on overnight campers, share experiences, and participate in activities that had been organized for the occasion. Below are some testimonies recorded during the event.
"During the pandemic, it was very difficult, because our work schedule began at midnight, while the curfew was in place as of 8:00 p.m. We had to arrive at work early. We lived in fear of being arrested by the police. It's very helpful to be living here, even though we would prefer to return to our own country, where there's a lot of insecurity. At our age, it would be very difficult to find a job and our future would be very uncertain. That's why we want status for all, in the hope that ... we can be regularized. If we are regularized, we will be able to regain our own peace of mind. We would have the right to health care and would have better work possibilities, which would allow us to fully flourish as persons."
"Prime Minister Trudeau had announced a regularization program for all undocumented and refused refugees. But he has been slow with regard to its application. Many folks like me are facing deportation. In fact, more people are being deported now than before. ...We undocumented immigrants need permanent residence and we need it now, without any conditions, so that we can be reunited with our families and live normal, safe lives as we continue to make our contributions to Canadian society. It is not enough to give us a work permit. A regularization program must provide us with permanent residency. Anything less is unacceptable and inhuman, not worthy of Canada ..."
"I arrived from Morocco in 2020. I was hired by a Canadian company while still in my country, to come and work in Canada. So I came here with a work permit and was approved when I entered Canada at the airport. I remember that when I passed before border services to complete my arrival procedures, my employer was called to let him know I had arrived. To my great surprise, I learned from him that my contract had been annulled." "He had already let go four other employees. The border services agent then produced a report banning me from Canadian territory. The news broke me. I would never have imagined this! I had arrived full of hope to change my family's situation. My dream was transformed into a real nightmare, in a matter of seconds. During all the steps I had taken, I received no news about my contract, which required a letter of invitation, being annulled. [...]. I didn't know what to do at the time.
"Everything suddenly fell apart, without anyone understanding what it means to invest in such a project and the sacrifice it takes to make it happen ... leaving your country, being separated from your family, your children, to get there. I had to leave [...] my former job. I sold family belongings, which was our only source of stable money. I left my wife who was pregnant and my two young boys [...] under a mortgaged roof, a family financially dependent on me. Some people may say 'you should return home and take care of your family.' With all the sacrifices made by my entire family and the small grain of hope I planted in them, I can't back down. It's too late. They will not accept me returning empty-handed. They counted on me..."
(Testimonies translated from original French. Photos: TML and Solidarity Across Borders)
This article was published in
Number 18 - April 3, 2023