Canada’s unions are marking International Migrants Day by calling on the federal government to offer a pathway to permanent residency to all migrant workers who wish to apply.
The federal government recently announced that it will be accepting applications for permanent residence from refugee claimants working in the healthcare sector. This important announcement recognizes the crucial contributions refugee workers have made to the safety and wellbeing of communities across the country, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Canada’s unions are concerned that the eligibility criteria are too narrow.
“While we applaud the government’s recent announcement, the option to apply for permanent residency should be available to migrant workers in all sectors,” said Hassan Yussuff, CLC President. “The pandemic has shown that migrant workers provide essential services. All migrant workers deserve the opportunity to stay in Canada and to have their human and labour rights protected, just as any other worker.”
This week, the federal government also announced that it will allow seasonal migrant workers from Trinidad and Tobago – stuck in Canada due to COVID-19 travel restrictions – to apply for open work permits. This grants them job mobility, and gives them access to healthcare and employment insurance while Canadian officials negotiate their return home.
Although this is a step in the right direction, it highlights the vulnerability of migrant workers.
Migrant workers face insecurity, discrimination and often work in dangerous conditions. Their precarious position leaves them dependant on employers and makes them especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. The pandemic has only made this worse.
During the initial quarantine period earlier this year, migrant workers reported wage issues, food insecurity and a lack of required public health measures in their accommodations. By the month of November, nearly 2,000 migrant workers on farms across Canada had fallen ill with COVID-19, and three had died.
“The federal government must also ensure that migrant workers have comprehensive worker protections to prevent exploitation, abuse, mistreatment and discriminatory workplace policies,” said Yussuff. “These workers have been doing critical work throughout the pandemic to keep our families and communities safe and cared for, while they faced instability, insecurity and unfair working and living conditions. It’s past time for their efforts to be recognized and valued.”
Canada’s unions believe that all workers in Canada should be treated fairly. Migrant workers deserve a fair future just as all workers do. Our country’s recovery depends on the expansion of equal rights and protections for all workers so we can ensure a better, more inclusive, and just economic recovery.