People gather in Vancouver calling for permanent status for all migrants

Demonstrators gathered in Vancouver at the intersection of West Georgia Street and Hamilton Street Sunday afternoon, demanding "justice and equality for all" migrant workers.

Demonstrators gathered in Vancouver at the intersection of West Georgia Street and Hamilton Street Sunday afternoon, demanding “justice and equality for all” migrant workers.

Migrant Rights Network, an advocacy group that stands for fair migrant rights, has launched a campaign — ‘Migrant Spring’ — asking the government to regularize permanent residency.

Demonstrators were holding megaphones chanting “stop deportation” and “regularization” and holding signs reading “Status for all, full and permanent immigration” and “Equal rights for migrants.”

Omar Chu, a member of Sanctuary Health, says the current immigration system is not inclusive.

“We have migrants who are working in every single industry in this country, from farm work, construction, to care work, to cleaning, to sex work. We have all sorts of different workers in every single industry,” he said.

“We need to ensure that a broad, inclusive program includes everyone here who is working and also people who can’t work people with disabilities, who also contribute to our community.”

He says Canada needs a program where migrant workers are not dependent on their employers.

“Our immigration system is built on a host of different temporary programs that are each exclusionary in their own way, that leads to many migrants here ended up undocumented without status,” he said.

“People need to be able to feel permanent and to feel like they’re home.”

Chu tells CityNews there are government pilot programs but they are unstable.

Demonstrators gathered in downtown Vancouver Sunday afternoon, demanding “justice and equality for all” migrant workers. (CityNews Image)

“Right now, there’s a caregiver program that is ending on June 17. So caregivers are wondering after that, what happens? ‘How can I apply for permanent residence?’ ‘How can I get access to status?’ These are questions that caregivers don’t know the answers to after June 17,” he said.

Chu says migrant workers are working in unsafe jobs because it is the only pathway to a permanent residency. He says there is a lot of fear in their daily lives.

“We hear from migrants who are afraid to access healthcare, because they’re agraid that if they access the healthcare system, they will end up with huge bills,” he said.

Immigration expert Eline Mets says the pilot programs create a lot of confusion in the community, some getting extended the day of expiration

“That puts a lot of strain on the people,” she said. “Their life is in limbo because they don’t know if they’re able to submit the application.”

Mets says she has some clients waiting years to get their permanent residency, and she says many improvements are needed.

“This is a much bigger problem, and I find that each immigration minister has tried to mitigate and tried to make it easier,” she said. “However, we’re still seeing a lot of the problems and a lot of the issues not addressed at this moment.”

Migrant caregiver Mila tells CityNews she’s been waiting a long time for her permanent residency.

“It’s been challenging, because it’s just like almost five years of waiting for the right pathway to apply. I cannot apply for PR because I didn’t meet the requirements for educational assessment and also the English test… I …passed it but it’s also expired,” she said.

She says she has her Medical Services card, but because she is on a closed work permit, this means it will expire on June 17, along with her status.

Mets has a comment for those saying Canada has let in too many immigrants.

“Those are people who are already here, and they are willing and able to do a lot of jobs many Canadians don’t,” she said.

City News has reached out to the office of Mark Miller, the minister of immigration, refugees, and citizenship Canada, for comment.

With files from Angela Bower.

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