Migrant rights activists took to the streets last weekend.
The Rally for Regularization, organized by the Kingston migrant justice group Migrant Justice YGK, gathered outside Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen’s office Sept. 17. The protestors’ objective was to remind government officials of the regularization program promised in 2021 by Prime Minster Justin Trudeau.
“The rally was part of the Migrant Rights Network National Day of Action, a cross-country action to struggle for migrant justice,” said Vanessa E. Thompson, assistant professor in the Black studies and gender studies programs, in a statement to The Journal.
Regularization would allow for all migrant workers and their families to apply for and receive permanent resident status through a clear application process. It demands an immediate end to the detention and deportation of migrants, according to Migrant Rights Network’s 2022 update.
According to a census conducted in 2021, immigrants and permanent residents made up 23 per cent of the population of Ontario, breaking the previous record of 22.3 per cent and representing the highest percentage since 1921.
1.3 million recent immigrants were permanently admitted from January 1, 2016, to May 11, 2021, accounting for 15.9 per cent of all immigrants living in Canada.
Twenty-three per cent of the population, were or had ever been a landed immigrant of a permanent resident of Canada in 2021 according to Statistics Canada.
“As the Migrant Rights Network demands, anyone in Canada should be included without valid authorization to work, study, or stay; and anyone in Canada with valid work authorization on humanitarian grounds,” Thompson said.
Supporting the rally was the SGPS, PSAC 901, the Black studies program at Queen’s, and other local organizations and networks, such as Just Recovery Kingston, the Ontario Public Research Group (OPIRG) Kingston, Mutual Aid Katarokwi Kingston, and Health Providers Against Poverty.
A letter from the Migrant Rights Network to Canada’s Federal Cabinet clarified there are approximately 1,146,008 migrants holding temporary permits, and around 500,000 undocumented individuals in Canada as of December 30, 2020.
In 2020, the Canadian government granted 184,000 new permanent residence visas.
The disparity means one in 23 residents face exploitation and exclusions Thompson said. Despite their work in all essential infrastructure sectors, migrant workers continue to be exploited.
“Lack of permanent status keeps them in a state of illegality and precarity, and [the] lack of basic rights and protections. They’re left without health care, the right to study, the right to decent work as well as labor rights,” Thompson said.
Undocumented migrants frequently lead the fight for regularization, a movement that defies capitalist logic by using citizenship, borders, and migrant regimes as colonial tools in Thompson’s eyes.
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Parliament should keep their promises. People have been waiting for almost two years for this promise to be fulfilled. It is time,” said Ayca Tomac, assistant professor global development studies and cultural studies, in a statement to The Journal.
Queen’s University should be more transparent about the importance it places on migrant students, Tomac expressed.
For Tomac, its humiliating migrant students and their families must pay thousands of dollars for the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP), as they’re not eligible for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).
Queen’s has sponsored refugee students through the World University Services of Canada (WUSC) program. The University supported 36 refugee students through the program over 34 years.
To achieve universal higher education, the migration system needs to be challenged, Thompson told The Journal. University students should be conscious of this issue because it is one of social justice and equality.
“Migrant justice is food justice, health justice, environmental justice. Students can be mindful about how migration and border regimes are interlinked with other social justice issues and be mindful about it when organizing on campus,” Tomac said.
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