Protests across Canada on Sunday urged the federal government to deliver its promise of permanent residency for a greater number of international workers.

The day-long demonstrations were uniformly observed in 16 major cities ahead of Parliament’s resumption on Monday, to draw consideration to issues faced by hundreds of thousands of temporary foreign workers, asylum seekers, and immigrants.

These included advocacy for more protections for foreign workers and undocumented migrants, and better healthcare access despite of one’s immigration status.

“A lot of us here are international students, migrant workers, farm workers, care workers,” said WeiChun Kwa, a spokesperson for Migrant Students United at Simon Fraser University, told the CBC.

“And we’re all in this immigration system together.”

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Another protestor – Jane, who is an undocumented worker with Migrants Rights Network – told the Toronto Sun that “we live in fear. We are hopeless sometimes. I have been spat at, pushed, abused and denied fairness at work but I can’t leave because I am undocumented and no one else will hire me.”

“I worked to save so many people in COVID-19.”

Kwa further expressed their disappointment with a “lack of action” on the Liberals’ promised regularization program for undocumented people, migrant students, and foreign workers in Canada.

Parliament’s private member’s bill from last year urged Ottawa to “publicly release a plan to expand economic immigration pathways” for migrant workers “at all skill levels,” as per the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.

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

The protests come in the wake of Canada’s temporary foreign worker program being labeled a “breeding ground for contemporary forms of slavery” by Tomoya Obokata, UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.

He further urged the Trudeau government to streamline the pathway for permanent residency for temporary foreign workers.

Despite Prime Minister Trudeau having issued a mandate letter towards exploring ways of “regularizing status for undocumented workers” to the former Immigration Minister Sean Fraser in 2021, activists said that regularization pledges have remained unfulfilled.

Exploitative Workplaces

Sanctuary Health spokesperson Omar Chu said that “we haven’t seen movement on holding their promise.”

“We’ve been waiting far too long and … migrants are dying, migrants are afraid.”

The protestors at the rally in Vancouver brought forth concerns about living precariously as temporary migrant workers in Canada, such as suffering from exploitative workplaces, living in fear of potential detention, and deportation.

Gauri Sreenivasan, who is co-executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said that Trudeau needs to keep the promises he has made to migrants to Canada.

“The federal government committed almost two years ago to regularize the status of a range of vulnerable migrant populations who are living, working and contributing to Canadian society without access to a permanent residence — from seasonal workers to caregivers to those fleeing persecution and exploitation. The silence on this file is deafening,” she said.

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