Listen to the audio version of this story:
Toronto saw hundreds gather in the rainy weather, holding placards and umbrellas, at Christie Pits Park on Sunday, demanding equal rights and permanent resident status for all migrants to Canada.
The rally was part of nationwide gatherings held by the Migrant Rights Network that took place in 12 cities. Demonstrators, including migrants from all over the world, banded together to send a clear message to parliament: “Status for all, no exclusions.”
Ralliers marched from Christie Pits Park to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office at Bloor Street West and Spadina Avenue.
“People without a permanent resident status don’t have access to basic worker rights,” said Syed Hussan, executive director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, in an interview.
“These people don’t have access to essential services, are separated from their families, with hundreds of undocumented people living in daily fear of detentions and deportations.”
Merari Borgez, 19, who moved to Canada from Mexico when she was a child, was one of many migrants who expressed frustrations with the federal government’s treatment of Canadian migrants. The Network says there are over 1.7 million migrants across the country.
“A lot of people don’t know why we want status so desperately,” said Borgez. “Our lack of status has provided us with a different perspective on how a plastic card could affect hundreds of thousands of lives so dramatically.”
Borgez said her family’s immigrant status has compromised all of their educational, health and working rights over the past 15 years.
Groups such as the United Food and Commercial Workers Union also gathered in the rainy weather.
“Migrant workers are a rapidly growing yet vulnerable group in Canada,” said union member Derrick Johnstone. “A lot of employers are willing to exploit their lack of status. We are here today to demand a systematic overhaul.”
Canada has made a policy shift to promoting temporary migration rather than permanent migration, according to the Canadian Council for Refugees. They say this means the country is bringing in more temporary workers with “fewer rights, limited access to services, and no access to federally-funded settlement services.”
With the protest organized shortly before parliament resumes in Ottawa, those attending hope the rally will help inspire more inclusive laws.
“They have robbed us of our growth, and they have long robbed us of our dignity,” said Borgez. “We don’t want pity, we want change.”