Toronto / December 19, 2023
OCASI welcomes the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC), Minister Marc Miller’s statement last week to The Globe and Mail that he plans in the spring to present to cabinet a proposal for a “broad and comprehensive program” for immigration status regularization.
Civil society organizations such as OCASI have advocated for a broad and inclusive status regularization program for more than twenty years. People without immigration status are part of our communities, yet they are made invisible and are vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and abuse. They cannot access rights at work, school or elsewhere, access services or basic healthcare. The situation that confronts us is urgent and critical, and continues to escalate in part due to changes and gaps in immigration policies that leave many people in immigration limbo.
We welcomed the inclusion of the directive to “explore ways of regularizing status for undocumented workers”, from the Prime Minister to Minister Sean Fraser, the previous Minister of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship in his December 16, 2021 mandate letter. For over two years we were told that a program is imminent, only to be met with delays and lack of concrete action.
We are encouraged by the Minister’s plans to bring forth a regularization program in the spring. But we are concerned by the industry-specific focus. With the exception of healthcare and caregiver streams, the industry specific programs tend to favour male dominated sectors such as construction. A ‘broad and comprehensive’ program must instead rectify historic systemic biases such as these that continue to exist, and have contributed to why some people find it easier to immigrate to Canada through “regular” pathways than others. Further, the program must not reproduce the narrow eligibility criteria of recent status regularization pilots for workers in construction and healthcare that resulted in the exclusion of many potential applicants. A broad and comprehensive regularization program would include everyone without immigration status, without barriers or restrictions, and would provide a better quality of life for everyone in Canada.
Over the last two years we have also witnessed the rise in false and harmful narratives about refugees, migrants and immigrants, including those linking new arrivals to the housing affordability crisis. We are concerned these opinions could be weaponized to once again delay, narrow or block a status regularization program. We are also deeply concerned by CBSA’s escalation in 2023 of deportations of people without immigration status, even as the government has been consulting with stakeholders and working to develop a status regularization program.
OCASI calls on the government of Canada to immediately cease deportations of people without immigration status, and introduce a broad and comprehensive status regularization program without further delay. We also call on the government as well as members of the opposition to counter false and harmful narratives about refugees, migrants and people without status.