1. Home
  2. Politics

Vancouver migrant rights activists join national day of protest for workers’ status

Dozens of migrant rights advocates held a rally in downtown Vancouver on Sunday on a range of issues facing immigrants, asylum seekers, and temporary foreign workers. (Sohrab Sandhu/CBC)

Dozens of migrant rights advocates held a rally in downtown Vancouver on Sunday on a range of issues facing immigrants, asylum seekers, and temporary foreign workers.

Photo: (Sohrab Sandhu/CBC)

RCI

Migrant rights rallied in Vancouver, demanding feds give permanent residency to foreign workers

Dozens of supporters of migrant rights rallied in downtown Vancouver on Sunday, calling for Ottawa to live up to its promise of permanent residency for more foreign workers in Canada.

The demonstration was part of a day of protest held in major cities across Canada ahead of Parliament resuming on Monday, raising issues facing temporary foreign workers, asylum seekers and immigrants. In Toronto, thousands took to the streets.

The activists demanded more protections for foreign workers and undocumented migrants in the country, as well as better access to health care regardless of patients' immigration status.

A lot of us here are international students, migrant workers, farm workers, care workers, WeiChun Kwa, a spokesperson for Migrant Students United at Simon Fraser University, told CBC News. And we're all in this immigration system together.

Kwa said many were disappointed by what they called a lack of action on the federal Liberal government's promised regularization program (new window) for undocumented people, migrant students, and foreign workers in Canada.

Migrant rights advocates hold signs at a rally in downtown Vancouver on Sunday on a range of issues facing immigrants, asylum seekers, and temporary foreign workers. (Sohrab Sandhu/CBC)

Migrant rights advocates hold signs at a rally in downtown Vancouver on Sunday on a range of issues facing immigrants, asylum seekers, and temporary foreign workers.

Photo:  (Sohrab Sandhu/CBC)

Last year, Parliament passed a private member's bill for Ottawa to publicly release a plan to expand economic immigration pathways for migrant workers at all skill levels, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's website (new window)

This plan increases the opportunities for more temporary workers to transition to permanent residence, the ministry's website on the plan stated.

The issue of offering Canadian residency status to more migrant workers has been a common theme for the Liberal government.

In Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's 2021 mandate letter to then-immigration minister (new window) Sean Fraser, he asked Fraser to explore ways of regularizing status for undocumented workers who are contributing to Canadian communities, as well as to expand pathways to permanent residence for international students and temporary foreign workers.

The protest comes after Canada's temporary foreign worker program was labelled a breeding ground for contemporary forms of slavery by a United Nations official earlier this month. Tomoya Obokata, UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, called on the federal government to give all temporary foreign workers a pathway to longer term or permanent residency.

At the time, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Marc Miller's office wouldn't say if such a permanent pathway would be instituted. 

We cannot speculate on future policies. All new policies will be announced publicly,a spokesperson said in an email to CBC News Toronto (new window). The ministry did not reply to a CBC News request for comment on the concerns raised by the cross-Canada rallies.

But activists said on Sunday that those regularization pledges haven't been fulfilled. 

We haven't seen movement on holding their promise, said Sanctuary Health spokesperson Omar Chu. We've been waiting far too long and … migrants are dying, migrants are afraid.

Speakers at the Vancouver rally said temporary and precarious immigration status has left thousands of migrant workers in Canada suffering in often-exploitative workplaces, living in fear of potential detention and deportation — many without access to health care.

The renewed call for change comes one day before Parliament is set to reconvene — with the cross-country protesters hoping the federal government makes its promises to immigrant communities a priority this session.

They're going back to the cabinet and then they're going to talk to talk about this, said Julie Diesta, with the Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights. We want them to talk about migrant workers' status for all now.

David P. Ball (new window) · CBC News ·

Headlines