Migrant workers in Sudbury to demand 'status for all' as part of Canada-wide rallies
Gatherings also expected in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, Niagara Falls, Ont.
Migrant workers and supporters in Sudbury, Ont., and other Canadian cities will gather on Saturday to mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The Status for All rallies for migrants, refugees and international students are slated to also be held in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton and Niagara Falls, Ont., and will highlight personal stories about injustice and discrimination while living in Canada.
Migrant workers can be hired under the federal Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), which was established in 1966. Temporary foreign workers can also be hired under the agricultural stream of a federal immigration pilot project for occupations requiring lower levels of formal training.
Canada is increasingly becoming reliant on temporary foreign workers to fill labour shortage gaps, with the number of workers increasing from about 111,000 in 2000, to 777,000 in 2021, according to Statistics Canada.
"We will be joining thousands of migrants all across Canada who are holding rallies and events to bring awareness to the need for status for all," said Scott Florence, executive director for the Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Centre (SWEAC).
The organization is behind the local Saturday afternoon event at the main branch of the Greater Sudbury Public Library.
According to Florence, many migrant workers face racism.
"Let's say your employer is abusive or exploitative and you decide that you'd like to quit. You now have 10 days in which you are required to exit the country, so it doesn't really give you any access to justice or any stability," he said.
Florence said many migrant workers, undocumented workers or international students who want to work part time, are too afraid to seek accountability from an exploitative employer.
Saturday's events across Canada are meant to raise awareness about those injustices and call on the federal government to put in place a regularization program, something advocates have been calling on for years.
In December 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked his minister of Immigration, refugee and citizenship "to build on existing pilot programs to further explore ways of regularizing status for undocumented workers who are contributing to Canadian communities."
Florence said some people without status end up working under the table and risk deportation to make ends meet.
"Everybody that comes to Canada, currently in today's age, comes for the same reason that all of our ancestors did: to make better lives for themselves," Florence said. "It's only fair they have the same access to services and support that our grandparents did, our great-grandparents did and that we ourselves have."
He said "the pressure, the struggles and the stress" that puts on people is "fundamentally unfair from a human rights perspective."
Immigration minister has met with migrants, IRCC says
In an email to CBC News, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said work to deliver the mandate commitment from the prime minister is underway.
The email also said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser has met with around 100 undocumented migrants from around the country.
In January, it was announced IRCC is expanding the Out-of-Status Construction Workers Pilot program, doubling its scope and extending the initiative until January 2024. About 1,000 individuals are to be accepted through this initiative over the next year.
With files from Angela Gemmill