Social Justice and Democracy

Canada’s unions say marginalized workers must not be forgotten during pandemic

March 20, 2020

Canada’s unions are marking the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by calling on the federal government to protect the rights of marginalized workers and refugees as part of its COVID-19 response.

Migrant workers, undocumented people, people living on low-incomes, international students, racialized workers and refugees are particularly vulnerable to the health fallout of the current pandemic, as well as the economic impacts of the crisis.

“It is critical that the strategies around containing the virus and supporting workers includes these vulnerable populations,” said Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice-President at the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). “This includes upholding the human rights of asylum seekers who present at irregular crossings along Canada’s border. No one should be turned away but screened for the virus while being provided with the support guaranteed under our international obligations to refugees and migrants.”

The CLC echoes the Migrant Rights Network call for immediate government action to ensure:

  • healthcare for all, including those without status;
  • comprehensive worker protections, including paid emergency leave;
  • a stop on detentions and deportations;
  • increased funding for community supports, including food banks; and
  • emergency shelters.

Furthermore, the CLC is calling on everyone to be vigilant against anti-Asian racism due to the unfair linkages being made with Chinese communities and the virus.

“We know there will be those who take advantage of a global crisis to unfairly scapegoat certain groups. This is absolutely unacceptable. Racism, xenophobia, and expressions of hate have no place in our communities. Canada’s unions will continue to promote inclusive communities.

“This global pandemic must bring about the best in all of us. Together, we will get through the immense challenges we are now facing,” said Rousseau.

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