(MigrantRightsCA/Twitter)

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Migrant workers and advocates called for a “just recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic during a digital rally on Saturday.

The pandemic has shown how heavily Canada relies on migrant and undocumented workers to perform essential jobs, said Chit Arma, who chairs the Migrant Workers Centre’s board of directors in Vancouver.

“The pandemic has also exposed the extent to which these essential workers do not enjoy essential rights, and the long-standing systemic problems with the temporary foreign work program that puts workers in an extremely precarious position,” she said during the video conference.

The rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre.

The campaign calls the federal government to create a new permanent residency program for all essential migrant and undocumented workers, and to allow the workers to apply for an open-work permit while waiting for their applications to process.

No one at the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada could immediately be reached for comment.

On July 31, the federal government announced $58.6 million in funding that it said would boost protections for temporary foreign workers and address COVID-19 outbreaks on farms.

Of that, $35 million was earmarked to improve health and safety on farms and in employee living quarters to prevent the spread of COVID-19. About $7.4 million would support the workers, including $6 million for direct outreach delivered through migrant support organizations, the government said.

The government also said it was working to develop mandatory requirements to improve living conditions in employer-provided accommodations.

In August, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced a temporary measure to provide a pathway to permanent residency for asylum claimants working in health-care during the pandemic.

Under the measure, the frontline workers would be able to apply for permanent residency if they met certain criteria, including having made a an asylum claim before March 13 and having been issued a work permit after their claim.

“This approach recognizes those with precarious immigration status who are filling an urgent need and putting their own lives at risk to care for others in Canada,” the government said in a news release.

READ MORE: Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

Natalie Drolet, executive director of the Migrant Workers Centre, said the measure excludes other frontline workers like grocery store clerks, truckers and care workers.

“While this is a positive step, it leaves too many migrant workers and undocumented workers behind who have also been on the front lines in the pandemic,” Drolet said.

Migrants and undocumented workers play key roles as health-care workers, grocery store clerks, cleaners, care workers, truckers and agricultural workers, Arma said.

More than 1,300 migrant workers in Ontario alone have been infected with COVID-19 she said. Three have died, including one undocumented worker, she said.

Arma came to Canada in 2005 to work as a caregiver. Her temporary status in Canada gave her stress and anxiety, she said.

“I had papers, I had documents, and yet I had that fear of being removed, a fear of speaking up because I might be deported,” she said.

“I can imagine how undocumented workers are experiencing even worse because of the lack of documents they have.”

Maria Cano arrived to work as a caregiver in 2017 through the temporary foreign worker program. She said the experience showed how disempowering the experience could be, even before the pandemic struck.

Cano worked for four different families and moved to three different cities in her first few years. They expected to work long hours without compensation, she said.

“When I spoke up, I lost my job,” she said. “That entire process was very stressful and financially draining.”

She finally found a “nice Canadian family” who treated her with respect and sponsored her but said others shouldn’t hope for the same luck, they should be protected with recognized rights instead.

“The COVID-19 pandemic makes it more difficult and stressful for all the undocumented and migrant workers in Canada,” she said.

Beginning Dec. 15, the B.C. government will require employers wishing to high foreign workers through federal programs to register with the province.

The government said in a news release Saturday that the measures would ensure the workers are paid for the hours they work, have accurate job descriptions and ensure their rights and safety are protected on the job.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Labour

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A house on Highway 3A caught fire Sunday evening, Oct. 25, 2020.
House fire on Highway 3A in Keremeos

Neighbours acted quickly to help save home

x
Morning Start: Bubble wrap was originally intended to be wallpaper

Your morning start for Monday, Oct. 26, 2020

Game Cave Video Games Amusements has become a haven for Penticton gamers since its Oct. 14, 2020 opening. (Game Cave Video Games & Amusements / Facebook)
Gamers flock to new retro video game shop in Penticton

‘It’s like candy land for gamers,’ said one loyal customer

Roly Russell, the predicted MLA for the Boundary Similkameen, and his wife Christine Carlson celebrate on election night. (Contributed)
B.C. Votes 2020: Russell leads as election heads to mail-in counting

Russell is likely to replace incumbent BC Liberal Linda Larson

Students across B.C. vote in a BC NDP majority government. (Student Vote B.C.)
Local students elect a BC NDP majority government

Penticton students elect NDP Toni Boot, with Green’s Ted Shumaker close behind

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP pictured at a motor vehicle incident during snowy conditions. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
West Kelowna RCMP investigate serious hit and run over the weekend

According to the police, a pedestrian continues to recover from serious injuries

École de l’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak forces closure of Kelowna school

French-language school École de l’Anse-au-sable will remain closed until Nov. 4

Vernon Fire Rescue Services responded to a vehicle that crashed into a Vernon home on 17th Street Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (City of Vernon photo)
Three hurt after Mustang crashes into Vernon home

Vehicle occupants and one resident reported sustaining minor injuries in Sunday incident

A heavy police presence was spotted in Lumby, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Facebook)
BREAKING: Police situation unfolding in Lumby

Police call for social media blackout in ongoing incident

NDP Leader John Horgan speaks with the owner of a barber shop while campaigning in Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Campaigning was restricted by the coronavirus pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s B.C. majority came with historically low voter turnout

Barely half of eligible voters cast ballots in snap election

Five British Columbians and an Alberta man are facing charges linked to a 2018 bust of a Lumby clandestine lab. (RCMP)
Six charged in 2018 Lumby drug lab bust

Bust one of province’s biggest, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, two men still loose

While Revelstoke has one of the oldest bear awareness societies in the province, the city has yet to implement a community wide bear-proof garbage system. (Submitted)
Saving bears: Revelstoke’s garbage dilemma

More than 400 bears have been killed in the city since 1986

Most Read