Migrants demand equal rights in advance of election

By: Saeed Akhtar/ Local Journalism
As Canada recovers from COVID-19, migrants who work in essential industries such as agriculture, and healthcare fear being left behind.
Workers are demanding a path to permanent residency for all.  They took their message to Ottawa Sunday for a rally. “We are coming to express our disappointment with Canada’s immigration policies. We are coming to call for fair treatment, but most of all, we are coming to demand status for all,” Abdoul said.  Abdoul, an undocumented immigrant from West Africa, camped outside the city the night before.
The march of hundreds of migrant workers included undocumented people, farmworkers, care workers, students and refugees.  They carried photos of migrant farmworkers that have died this year, large banners and balloons.
Migrants are unable to access fundamental labour rights or essential services such as healthcare during COVID-19. Many cannot speak up against abuse and exploitation because of fear of reprisals that can lead to deportation.
Omar Walcott, a Jamaican migrant farmworker and member of the migrant group Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, and father of two, traveled to Ottawa from Niagara. “We migrants feed this country and still we live and die in slavery conditions of crowded housing, mistreated by bosses, and separated from our families”, he said.
Canada accepted 25,000 refugees in 2020.  Temporary programs have been introduced to allow workers a pathway to residency.  However, undocumented migrants remain shut out from key supports including COVID-19 vaccines.  A federal election is expected to be called in the coming weeks.