In December 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that the federal government would implement a program to give migrants a pathway to status. Millions of migrants have fought for years against the precarious status and lack of status that the Canadian immigration system uses to exploit them under capitalism and border imperialism. However, almost two years after Trudeau made his promise, the program is nowhere in sight, with no timeline for its existence.
There are 1.7 million people in the country without permanent status, including 500,000 people who have no status at all. They are our friends, our family, our neighbours, our coworkers; the ones who grow our food and take care of our loved ones and do the work that keeps our society running. But without permanent resident status, they are susceptible to heightened exploitation at work, in housing, and in healthcare—if they’re even able to access these in the first place.
Last weekend, all across the Canadian state, thousands of migrants and supporters hit the streets to demand that Trudeau and the federal government stop dragging their feet and grant permanent resident status to all migrants. What follows is a report from just a few of the many actions that took place from coast to coast.
In Halifax, migrants and their allies gathered on September 15 at Halifax Liberal MP Andy Fillmore’s office to deliver a letter in support of Status for All.
Kerian Burnett spoke at the action. Kerian came from Jamaica to work on a strawberry farm in Nova Scotia but lost her job, housing, healthcare, and immigration status when she received a cancer diagnosis. Like many migrants whose work permits grant them status only as long as they work for a specific employer, when she became too sick to work, she got fired, and as a result, the Canadian government took away her status. She has since been an outspoken advocate for health care and status for all migrants.
“I have been through a lot,” Burnett said in a speech to the crowd that was met with applause. “We can’t work when we get sick. We can’t access healthcare because of not having any status here or insurance. We can’t work to pay all those bills that we face in the hospitals. So I appreciate if the decision was made to help migrants to live a better life here in Canada.”
Orlando Rosas also spoke. Orlando came from Mexico to work as a room attendant at the Keltic Lodge in Cape Breton. He and others became sick due to the mould in the staff residence there. Orlando’s cousin was deported while recovering from pneumonia caused by the mould.
Ottawa’s action showed that you don’t need hundreds of people and megaphones to make a strong, effective political intervention. Roughly twenty migrants and supporters got out on Sunday to put up posters around the city, targeting different areas of the city where MPs work and live: Bank St, Laurier St, Byward Market, Sparks St, culminating in a meetup on Parliament Hill.
“Permanent status is the right thing to do,” said Francis of the Migrant Rights Network at the action. “It just gives equal rights, equal opportunity, and a freer society to people who have lived, and worked, and still contribute here to Canada.”
Francis concluded with an important message for the federal government that accurately summarizes the feeling of the day: “Permanent status is the way to go!”
Three thousand migrants and supporters hit the streets in Toronto on September 17, shutting down major intersections in the downtown core.
A crowd filled with signs and banners marched, drummed, danced, and shouted for hours, with revolutionary energy reverberating through the city. Chants of “WE WANT STATUS! STATUS! STATUS!” and “LET’S GET IT DONE!” sent a strong message to the public and the government that it’s time to stop delaying the regularization of all migrants.
At various points, bystanders on the street voiced their support, with some even joining the action. Though downtown Toronto is filled with banks and other capitalist institutions, Sunday’s action made it clear as day that the streets belong to the people – and the people want Status for All, now!
Hundreds attended the rally in downtown Vancouver on September 17 to call for permanent resident status for all. Several unions and organizations had an important presence at the action, including (but not limited to) the Canadian Office of Public Employees, Migrante BC, the Vancouver Tenants Union, No One Is Illegal BC, Sex Workers Action Network Vancouver, and the Worker Solidarity Network.
With these groups in attendance, it is no surprise that speakers spent the afternoon making vital connections between the struggle for migrant justice and other working-class struggles. The Vancouver Tenants Union delivered an impassioned and very timely speech debunking the myth that the housing crisis is caused by immigration as opposed to the greed of landlords, developers, and capitalists.
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