2006 Flyer Text: National Day of Action for Immigrant Rights and Status for All

Posted by admin on May 30th, 2006


Across Canada, immigrants, refugees and their allies are demonstrating today May 27 2006 against the deportation and detention of migrants and refugees, for a full, inclusive, unconditional and ongoing regularization program, and for full rights and dignity for immigrant communities against racism, poverty, and criminalization.

Building on ongoing organizing efforts led by migrant communities, we are demonstrating because hundreds of thousands of people live without status, while hundreds of thousands more are exploited by the arbitrary and racist policies of Immigration Canada. Lack of status, deportations, detentions, and security certificates all contribute to making migrants vulnerable to exploitation, poverty, insecurity and indignities that no one should suffer.

Most non-status people in Canada are refugee claimants fearing persecution and are victims of a Canadian refugee system that has been described by advocates as a “lottery-system” with no appeal and political appointees as judges. It is a myth that Canada accepts a large number of refugees. For every 443 Canadians born, 1 refugee is admitted. This number is further declining with the Safe Third Country Agreement, signed between the Canada and the US in 2004, which will not allow (with minor exceptions) asylum-seekers into Canada if they first arrive in the U.S, affecting approximately 40% of claimants and creating a “Fortress North America”. Meanwhile, the Canadian government supports international agreements that allow the free movement of capital, business and goods across the globe and such business relocation has created huge areas of poverty and displacement around the world giving people no choice but to migrate in the face of poverty, war and militarization.

Without status, and deemed “illegal”, thousands of such non-status migrants are forced to live in poverty, without sufficient access to health care or education, and in great fear of being detained or deported, all the while being the most exploited in the workplace. Many sectors of the Canadian economy rely on the exploited labour of non-status and refugees, maintaining a social and economic system that has created two classes of people. They are forced underground; threatened with detention or with deportation to desperate situations; and subjected to discriminatory legal standards.

Thousands of immigrants, especially immigrant women, are forced to live in poverty due to deskilling and lack of accreditation. For example under provincial employment standards in BC, it is possible for workers who are new to the labour force to be paid a $6 per hour “training wage”, instead of the regular minimum wage, for the first 500 hours of work. Immigrants who are trained within non-western educational or scientific traditions experience great difficulties in gaining recognition for their training and skills. A Statistics Canada study indicates that even after 10 years in Canada, one-fifth of university-educated immigrants are still working in extremely low-income jobs.

We march inspired by historical victories and redress won by descendents of the Komagatamaru, the Japanese-Canadian internment, and the Chinese Head-Tax. Yet we are saddened that such unjust histories continue to affect us today just in different forms. The guest-worker programs in Canada today continue to exploit the cheap labour of migrant workers, who toil in Canada with no basic rights in dangerous, slave-wage conditions. Contract agricultural labour under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program brings in 18,000 migrant farm workers from the Caribbean and Mexico every year. The low wages of these migrant workers has contributed to the multi-million dollar agricultural industry, while the systemic structure of the program- particularly the lack of secure work and status- silences the struggles of the workers.

For decades immigrants have been scapegoated, and now since 9/11, the false link between immigrants and terrorism has developed, resulting in racial profiling and the further entrenchment of racialized communities as second-class, hyphenated citizens. The current regime of secret evidence and secret trials through Anti-Terrorism legislation and Security Certificate process targets and dehumanizes those from South Asian, Middle Eastern and Arab origin as “terrorists” in the same way that Japanese-Canadians were considered “enemy-aliens.”

The people whose lives have been torn apart by Canadian immigration are not anonymous; they are our friends and neighbors. Some families threatened with deportation have lived and worked in Vancouver for several years and have Canadian-born children; this is their home. In the past years, we have written hundreds of letters, collected thousands of signatures, and organized dozens of demonstrations. We have successfully fought deportations and detentions, but have also seen our family members and friends removed, detained, forced underground or forced into sanctuary. Police and deportation agents continue to enter our homes, schools and workplaces, creating fear in our communities, while detaining and removing our neighbors, colleagues, friends and families.  Instead of the fear and paranoia promoted by the government, we organize to support each other, in the spirit of solidarity.

In Vancouver, the migrant communities leading the march are simply demanding their basic rights to a secure life, dignity and a future. Our demands for regularization call for the recognition and affirmation of rights and status of people residing in Canada without permanent residency- non status peoples, refugees, and temporary workers. Regularization is an issue of self-determination and justice. Our fundamental principle of regularization is that  we need a comprehensive, transparent, inclusive and ongoing regularization program that is both equitable and accessible to all persons living without legal immigration status in Canada. Any regularization program must be non-discretionary, non-arbitrary and be applied consistently. While any regularization program is in process, all levels of government in Canada must guarantee non-status people full and equal access to health care, social assistance, education, childcare, employment, labour protection, housing, legal aid, domestic violence services etc., without fear of identification, criminalization, detention, deportation or any other kind of enforcement.

For every arbitrary detention, for every summary deportation, for every minute spent in jail without charge, for every anxious and dehumanizing day spent waiting for status, for every hour spent working in Canadian sweatshops—for all the stolen time and the stolen lives — this march pays tribute to our communities. Join us as we refuse to be silenced and as we refuse to live in fear. Celebrate our communities courage as we stand together to demand status for all and dignity for our friends, families, and communities!

Organized by the STATUS Coalition, which brings together community-based organizations in the Vancouver area belonging to movements and struggles of the people of the Global South (Asia, Africa, Central and South America, Middle East, the Caribbean region) and the struggles of such migrant communities in Canada. Our current members are: Association of Chinese Canadians for Equality and Solidarity Society, Bolivia Solidarity Committee, Canadian Network for a Democratic Nepal, Consejo Indigena Popular de Oaxaca -Ricardo Flores Magon – Vancouver, Committee for Solidarity with Colombia, Iranian Federation of Refugees, Iranian Refugee B.C, La Surda Latin American Collective, Justicia 4 Migrant Workers B.C, No One is Illegal, Palestine Arab Women’s Association, Palestine Community Center, Salaam Vancouver, South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy, Vancouver Status of Women. This march is also supported by dozens of unions, community groups, student groups and women’s centers (please visit www.solidarityacrossborders.org for a full list)

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