Browsing Category 'Ontario'

The Campaign for $14: First Steps Towards a Better Labour Movement?

Op-Ed by Petr Liakhov

An image from the Workers Action Centre website of the August 14, 2013 street party held in Kathleen Wynne’s riding.

On February 15, on a bone-chilling Saturday afternoon, almost five hundred people flooded Dundas Square calling on the government of Ontario to raise the minimum wage to $14 / hour.  It was the latest (and largest) of a series of once-monthly street mobilizations by the “Raise the Minimum Wage Campaign”.

This campaign, which pushes for broad class based demands, and uses mass protest as one of its primary tactics should be understood as a chance for a positive reorientation of labour politics in Ontario; a chance to start making a labour movement that is at home not with the stuffy politics of parliament but with the militant politics of the street.

The possibility of such a re-orientation, though still at a stage of infancy in Anglo-Canada, comes hot on the heels of major labour mobilizations in the United States, with successful strikes carried out by fast-food and other minimum wage workers all over the country; and with the successful struggle in Washington state, where the workers of SeaTac won a 15$ minimum wage in their city.  There are also precedents here in Canada, with the Quebec student protests and Idle No More bravely blazing a trail that relies on grassroots people power instead of relying solely on lobbying corrupt and over-paid politicians.

An image from RaiseTheMinimumWage.ca website.

In addition to a greater focus on militant street politics, the 14$ minimum wage campaign is also significant in that its focus goes beyond the usually narrow demands of organized labour.  Instead of focusing on simply defending the rights and privileges of better paid unionized workers, it is a campaign that calls for a wage increase for millions of un-unionized Ontarians, including those who currently earn below the 10.25$ minimum wage such as agricultural and migrant workers. Furthermore, this is rare in the labour movement in that this is not just a defense of existing gains by the working class, but is a counter-offensive against the interests of big business.

All this in mind, the demand for a 14$ minimum wage is essentially a modest one, at a time when the majority employers of minimum wage workers, such as McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, are raking in hundreds of billions of dollars in profits every single year, a push for a wage which sits at only 10% above the poverty line is not asking for much.  Nevertheless, all of the large parliamentary parties, including the so-called “worker’s party” that is the NDP, have rejected a 14$ minimum wage as too extreme with the NDP Ontario leader Andrea Horwath instead proposing a more “balanced” wage increase to 12$ by 2016. Such blatant opportunism has even caused even some close labour allies of the NDP to take pause, with Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan criticizing Horwath’s position as “unacceptable”.

Given the NDP’s track record of prostrating themselves before big business and attacking the interests of workers, students, and first nations peoples every single time they have been elected (we need only remember Bob Rae, or look to the recent Nova Scotia electoral loss for proof), this more recent betrayal is not surprising. However, the lack of any truly representative parliamentary party at the moment does bring into sharp relief both the current need for organizing in the streets, and the absolute necessity for organized labour to not only vocalize a criticism of the NDP but to do something concrete.

The on-going monthly protests for a higher minimum wage are a positive development. Yet, if they are to lead to any real changes, they must evolve into something more than simply the demand for people to be paid just enough to afford both paying rent and buying food for their family. For the 14$ minimum wage to have any lasting effect it must be approached not as an end goal, but as a stepping stone for building a peoples’ movement in the streets. Uniting middle and low income workers, students, and First Nations—demanding not just a higher minimum wage but also improvements in housing, migrant worker rights, healthcare, education, and environmental policy. The only way the modest gains of winning a 14$ minimum wage can be consolidated is if these gains lead to a movement which doesn’t just improve upon our society, but completely transforms it.

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Six Nations meeting rallies community against Bill C-10 

by Noaman G. Ali

Six Nations of the Grand River | “The introduction of Omnibus Bill C-10 is an attempt to criminalize the hard-working families and entrepreneurs of Six Nations and other territories,” Jonathan Garlow said to over two hundred people gathered at the Polytechnic of the Six Nations of the Grand River on February 22.

“It will disrupt the reconciliation efforts by Canada to restore the relationship of peace and respect with Indigenous nations, possibly resulting in another confrontation.”

Jonathan Garlow, founder of Two Row Times, speaks to BASICS.

Jonathan Garlow, founder of Two Row Times, speaks to BASICS. (SHAFIQULLAH AZIZ/BASICS)

The meeting was organized by the Two Row Times newspaper. Garlow, founder of the Two Row Times and owner of a small printing shop in Six Nations, told BASICS the community meeting was held to inform the many families in Six Nations who are involved in and benefit from the tobacco trade about the upcoming Bill and to start a conversation about resisting it.

The law not only criminalizes unstamped tobacco, it also introduces mandatory minimum sentencing that could land ‘offenders’ in prison for at least two years.

Read more…

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by Muriam Salman

Rogerio Marques DeSouza, an undocumented worker, died an untimely death. However, the discrimination he faced due to his immigration status did not end with his passing.

At 49, Rogerio, the father of three teenage children, had been fighting colon cancer for over three years. As an undocumented migrant from Brazil, he was denied access to health care and had to hide his illness.

When his bosses discovered he was coming to work with a colostomy bag, they fired him.

Unable to keep up with his rent on top of the $100,000 he incurred in medical fees, he began working in a bakery and moved in with his children to save on rent. Shortly thereafter his condition quickly worsened and Rogerio quietly passed away at Toronto Grace Health Centre on January 18 earlier this year.

“We got a call from Rogerio’s relatives asking for support. They had been trying to get [the City of] Toronto to fund the funeral, as they didn’t have the resources themselves but were being denied because he didn’t have status,” Syed Hussan of No One Is Illegal – Toronto told BASICS.

“We wrote the city a strongly worded letter giving them 24 hours to resolve the situation, but they responded with an offer that was starkly inhumane.”

Using his immigration status as an excuse, the City of Toronto denied Rogerio’s low-income family the City’s funeral subsidy and instead offered to quietly burn the body. As Barbara Steeves, guardian of Rogerio’s three children, explained in an interview with the Toronto Star, “They said we must sign the release of the body to the city, so they can bury him in an unknown spot. And that’s the only way.”

Adding insult to injury, the treatment of Rogerio’s remains and his family come just in advance of the one year anniversary of Toronto City Council reaffirming its commitment to providing services without fear to undocumented residents on February 21, 2013. The reaffirmation was the result of two decades of community mobilization, and caught Toronto up to over 50 American cities with longstanding “sanctuary city” laws of the sort.

But as we mark this date, we must also step back and reflect on the work that has yet to be done.

“Seeing that the City bureaucrats weren’t going to live up to the promise of a Sanctuary City, we released the details of Rogerio’s case in a Toronto Star story and planned a delegation to Metro Hall,” added Hussan. “Minutes before heading in, we received a call from a private organization that wanted to pay for the funeral.

“After much deliberation the family accepted the offer, but insisted that we can’t always rely on charity. The overall structure must change.”

Rogerio with his family.

Rogerio with his family.

No One Is Illegal has since launched a Change.org petition calling on the Ontario government to make its services accessible to undocumented peoples.

A report released by the Solidarity City Network in December recommended that the City identify key city-funded services accessed by undocumented residents and develop department specific policies to ensure full access. Test-calling to hundreds of city agencies showed huge numbers of undocumented people being turned away and the city has still shown little sign of upholding its promise to make Toronto a fully functioning sanctuary city in practice, not just on paper.

Immigration status, for those fortunate enough to receive it, is becoming much more temporary and easier to lose. Sponsoring family members, getting refugee status, and going from temporary worker to permanent resident are all being choked off by the federal government. Systematically, racialized immigrants and refugee workers remain insecure, while paying income, sales and property taxes for services they are not entitled to use and to subsidize tax cuts for the wealthy in a climate of increasing income-inequality.

Poor health, isolation and repeated displacement are made worse with the criminalization of migrants through indefinite detention, raids, and surveillance in our communities. The result is that an entire section of our communities is living in fear — the same fear Rogerio felt three years ago when he first began experiencing symptoms, afraid of being reported to immigration authorities by the hospital. This indignity followed him into death, when his family found out the City hadn’t implemented its own policy.

Rogerio’s story sheds light on the high cost of denying our friends, neighbours and coworkers access to basic services based on immigration status. While it is the federal government that determines citizenship, the actual result of that denial would be far less dangerous were it not for provincial and municipal policies that place citizenship requirements on accessing basic services. Both the city and the province can enact changes to fill this gap and resist such blatantly racist and exclusionary Federal immigration policies, by refusing to deny health care, social housing, medical services, post-secondary education, and other important services to people based on citizenship.

Although the government does not keep track of its undocumented residents, estimates hover around 200,000 throughout the country. Every day, people like Rogerio resist the forces that seek to criminalize them. Enrolling their children in school, feeding their families, and accessing basic services  - the day-to-day struggle to survive carries the ultimate risk. And in Rogerio’s case, surviving as an undocumented worker can carry the even greater cost of one’s own life.

Those of us working and living with status have nothing to lose and much to gain by standing alongside people like Rogerio. Let’s end these divisions imposed amongst working people and struggle for “Status for All.”

CUPE National squashes unionizing effort at Carleton U.

Workers lose jobs after successful union drive turned away by Paul Moist’s office

by Priscillia Lefebvre

Ottawa | Female Residence Fellows at Carleton University in Ottawa were met with blatant sexism and were told to “calm down” and to “stop blowing things out of proportion” when they approached Housing and Conference Services in October of this year with accounts of being actively harassed and intimidated by a male coworker.

Earlier this fall, another Fellow had brought concerns to management about being targeted by a student through physical intimidation ,verbal threats, and cyberbullying since early September. The floor she lived on was trashed and the door to her room was tagged with sexually derogatory slurs, but it fell on deaf ears. Management allowed the harassment to continue, undermining her authority to issue sanctions to students. According to sources consulted for this article, the situation finally spun out of control two months later resulting in a brawl breaking out on the floor involving approximately 50 students.

Residence Fellows are among the most overworked and precariously employed on a university campus. They are the front line workers for students living in residence and are expected to maintain a high level of visibility. Carleton University describes the Residence Fellow position as encompassing a scope of roles including “leader, administrator, facilitator, and educator.”  The position is usually reserved for upper-year undergraduate student-workers who deal with a multitude of issues in their jobs from underage drinking to sexual assault and suicide intervention.

residence commons pic - carletonResidence Fellows had been organizing to form a union for several weeks since early November, putting themselves at great risk in the process. A union could have raised awareness of the issues Residence Fellows face as university employees, pressured the University to sit down and negotiate a fair collective agreement, and allowed workers to grieve Housing Services’ failure to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Residence Fellows were succeeding until they received shocking news on December 1 of this year from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) – which boasts a membership of over 627,000 workers – that the union would not be accepting them after all.

The decision came from on high: the President’s office at CUPE National. Once the news surfaced the organizers were outed to management at Carleton. Workers were threatened with being fired for even mentioning the word “union.” Organizers were cut off from any support, leaving them to deal with potentially volatile situations on their own. Isolation and retaliation made their working conditions intolerable.

By December 7, three workers, including Marina Tronina and Miranda Moores, resigned as a result.  Because their employment was tied to their room and board on campus, this meant losing their homes as well. Moores explains, “We can’t work there anymore. Understand we didn’t resign simply because the environment was hostile; we resigned because we could not work there safely. It is too dangerous.”

A union campaign squashed… by a union

CUPE Local 4600, already representing Teaching Assistants and Contract Instructors on campus, had been working with the Residence Fellows to push for their inclusion into the Local. Their membership of about 2500 workers shares many of the same concerns including overwork, harassment, and job security. On November 21, Colette Proctor, CUPE National Organizing Representative, sent an email stating, “as long as the Local is fine with the possibility of having to cover the group I think we can organize them.” Thirty-one union cards were signed by November 24 reaching the certification requirement, before the President’s Office at CUPE National killed the campaign a week later.

When asked by Local 4600 on December 12 why the go ahead to sign cards was given before an official decision had been made, Proctor responded, “I didn’t foresee National having a problem organizing the group.” If staff at the Organizing Department was so certain that the campaign would be approved, why did CUPE National ultimately decide to turn its back on these precarious workers?

Their reasoning was weak, nonsensical, and indicates a clear lack of understanding of the experiences of young student-workers in the post-secondary sector. According to Francois Bellemare, Assistant Director of Organizing and Regional Services, CUPE National feels that the union would not be able to maintain appropriate services and “make a big difference” to these workers since they work on limited one-year contracts. Nor are they considered to be in an employer-employee relationship with the University since they work for room and board.  This is rather alarming considering members of Local 4600 only work four-month contracts and Residence Fellows are members of the Residence Life Staff who do indeed work for the University and pay income tax.

Workers left behind now have to deal with the aftermath. “We can no longer work there and Housing Services are now free to exploit workers who are still there. All the organizers are gone,” says Tronina.

Dan Preece, Vice-President of Unit 2 at Local 4600, elaborates on the situation, “There were options before. Now they are abandoned and this has created a poisonous environment. Workers are either too scared to say something or they have absolutely no faith in unions… Nobody should be signing a card if the decision from National could go either way. CUPE National needs to consider the human cost here.”

Paul Moist: Not so young, and not really paid like a worker, with a salary at almost 160k in 2012 alone.

Paul Moist, CUPE National President: Not so young,  not really paid like a worker (with a salary at almost 160k in 2012 alone), and so probably not so in tune with precarious young workers.

The “Year of the New and Young Worker”

It is no secret that the deteriorating conditions for young workers have them struggling to keep up with rent increases and the cost of living as well as lumbered with student debt. CUPE’s own statistics they show a 30% drop in full-time employment among young workers. CUPE named 2013 the “Year of the New and Young Worker” and states that it recognizes young workers as especially vulnerable to exploitative working conditions through precarious contract positions characterized by minimum wage and no benefits.

CUPE National is on record as saying that “the issues facing young workers need to be connected to all aspects of the labour movement.” In light of the Residence Fellows, this statement is reduced to empty rhetoric and fist waving for the cameras.

Solidarity For…Never? The sad state of bureaucratized unions

With the right to collective bargaining under attack by anti-union governments and bosses, fighting back matters and there is strength in solidarity. The labour movement has a strong history of workers who risked their lives demanding respect, safety, and fair treatment in the workplace. CUPE National’s recent actions puts that history to shame and serves as a harsh reminder of how bureaucratized union institutions can actually impede workers fighting for their rights.

The Residence Fellows at Carleton University deserve to be treated with dignity and respect by their employer. It should not be too much to ask that the same be expected of Canada’s largest union, which claims to be “committed to improving the quality of life for workers.”

At the time of writing CUPE National President, Paul Moist has yet to agree to meet with either the Residence Fellows or Local 4600 about this matter. Nor has he taken any responsibility or offered compensation of any kind to the three workers who lost their jobs and their homes as a direct result of this debacle.

Unlicensed Childcare: The Problem or the Solution?
Two veterans of the Little Lemurs Parenting Co-op that existed in Jane-Finch from January to July 2013. The two children remain very attached to one another after their months together, although no longer being in the same co-op.

Two children in the Little Lemurs Parenting Co-op that existed in the Jane-Finch community from January to July 2013. The two children remain very attached to one another, despite no longer being in the same co-op and only seeing each other every couple months.

by Vanessa Alexander – 6 December 2013

Unlicensed childcare: It sounds scary, right? That’s what the media and the Ontario Government would have you believe. In fact, unlicensed childcare is all childcare that happens when there is no license: when your neighbour looks after your daughter while you run to the store, or when grandparents look after grandchildren for the weekend. It’s not scary, or it doesn’t have to be, because this means your childcare will be as good as the decisions you make as parents. If you give your children to a neighbour who looks after a few kids for income, you make a decision based on what you know. You know that they are unlicensed, but you know that you can trust them with your children. That’s not a scary decision. The scary part is when you have absolutely no childcare options.

Read more…

Tour highlights building of people’s power in Venezuela
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Katrina Kozarek speaks in Montreal, outlining the process of building communal power (SANTIAGO ESCOBAR)

By the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front

As Venezuela faces yet another attempt by the Right-wing opposition to create political, economic and social turmoil in the wake of the upcoming municipal electoral process, the Hugo Chávez People’s Defense Front of Canada, organized a 5 City speaking tour with Katrina Kozarek from the Comuna Socialista Ataroa in Lara, Venezuela. According to organizers, the purpose of this tour was not only to bring attention to the renewed destabilization campaign against Venezuela, but also to show exactly what this process of building peoples power in Venezuela looks like from the ground.

According to Santiago Escobar, of Barrio Nuevo and the Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front, the speaking tour had the intention “to promote the accomplishments of the Bolivarian revolution, especially the socialist communes, which are concrete experiences of popular power from below and to the left, also with the intention of creating a network for educational and information interchange as an alternative to the information created by mass corporate media”.

Since 2006 Venezuela has begun to create a new ‘geometry of power’ in an effort to deepen and fortify the Bolivarian Revolution. This has meant the application of direct democracy through participation in economic, social and political planning and decision making from the grassroots, local organizations building towards a ‘communal state’.

At the neighbourhood level, laws were passed providing guidelines for the people to organize themselves into communal councils comprising of up to 400 families in a defined geographic area. Once formed through a democratic process that invites and includes all people living in this area, the communal council decides the identity of the area (including the name), elects spokespeople and defines the neighbourhood priorities. Importantly, it can also obtain funds in order to meet its assessed needs. Since the passing of the Law of Communal Councils in 2006, over 33 000 communal councils have been registered and over $2 Billion transferred from the central government directly to these communities for projects ranging from repairing of stairs and roads, to neighbourhood sports facilities, to cooperatives producing shoes and bricks.

In 2010, the Law of Communes was passed, which outlined the process for neighbouring communal councils to come together to take greater control over their area. Over 1100 communes have been registered to date.

Kozarek, who is part of the Ataroa Socialist Commune which comprises a territory which includes roughly 30 000 families, describes the communes “as the primary defense strategy of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela that promises to bring the country to the point of no return towards a truly democratic, and socialist future, creating an infrastructure for direct participation from a grassroots level, as well as promoting local and national production and self-sustainability.”

Kozarek acknowledged the fact that this process is still in construction and that capacity of Venezuela to resist the economic and other forms of sabotage is extremely important for the future of Venezuela and all of the countries and popular movements that have come together under the platform of the Bolivarian Alternative of Our America (ALBA) to resist imperialism in the region and build a model that moves away from neoliberalism.

The tour started off in the University of Toronto on the 7th of November, passing through Guelph University, Centro Hispano de York, Kitchener, Ottawa and finishing off in Montreal. The diversity of organizations, individuals and groups that participated in the events, joined in the call to participate in a solidarity social network created by community media and social movements of ALBA in Venezuela, called the Cayapa Communicacional, to share information and counter-act the opinions and information disseminated by the opposition and their supporters on an international level.

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Darlene Necan appears here in the construction of a plywood house in the summer of 2013, when organizers with ILPS-Canada assisted her and other local Nishnabek in the advancing a grassroots homebuilding movement on Necan's ancestral traplines.

Darlene Necan appears here in the construction of a plywood house in the summer of 2013, when organizers with ILPS-Canada assisted her and other local Nishnabek in the advancing a grassroots homebuilding movement on Necan’s ancestral traplines.

by Laura Lepper for the Two Row Times

On October 29th, 2013, Darlene Necan, elected spokesperson of the Ojibway Nation of Saugeen no. 258, was issued issued a stop work order by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources for building a house on land where her family grew up, on off-reserve Saugeen territory (unorganized Indian settlement land).

In August 2013, Necan and community members had begun building a plywood house in Savant Lake, Saugeen territory in order for her to have a home for the winter and an office/gathering place to help her lead a struggle for housing and equal rights for off-reserve members of her community.

This building was supported by the Indigenous Commission of the International League of People’s Struggles, many grassroots activists, and several locals of the Canadian Auto Workers and the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Read more…

Ontario’s shale-gas: The next ‘fracking’ frontier?
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These shale deposits were highlighted in a 2010-2011 report from the Ontario Environmental Commissioner.

by Steve da Silva

With the consciousness of people in Canada taken up a notch on the issue of “fracking” by the Mi’kmaq-led resistance in New Brunswick, it’s only a matter of time before people’s sights and struggles shift to the next major shale-gas frontier: Ontario. The US Energy Information Administration estimated in 2013 that there were 573 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas in Canada.

“Fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, is the process by which oil is withdrawn from harder to access sources by blasting water, sand, and chemicals into shale rock formations.

High gas prices have opened the way for the oil industry to push fossil fuel exploitation into the realm of more difficult to reach fossils fuels, what are known as “the unconventionals”: tar sands, shale-gas, and deep-water oil wells.

Most people in Ontario are unaware that a Canadian oil firm out of Alberta has for years been acquiring land rights across southwestern Ontario, in order to explore and drill the extensive shale-gas deposits in the province. Although up-to-date information on its operations are scarce, by 2011 Mooncor Oil and Gas Corp. already owned some 20,000 acres of land in Chatham-Kent and Lambton County, in southwestern Ontario.

In Ontario, geologists have broken down shale-gas deposits into three major zones: the Kettle Point Formation known as Antrim Shale; the Collingwood-Blue Mountain formations known as Utica Shale; and the northernmost limit of the Marcellus Shale that extends up from Pennsylvania and New York State.

While Ontario shale-gas exploration is reported to have not yet used the fracking method, the even greater danger of tapping shale-gas is the planetary danger posed by carbon emissions through new fossil fuel exploitation.  Although natural gas emits half the greenhouse gas that coal gives off, most of the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels cannot be exploited without initiating irreversible levels of climate change.

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Activist being arrested at occupation of Enbridge Pumping Station north of Hamilton (rabble.ca)

Activist being arrested at occupation of Enbridge Pumping Station north of Hamilton (rabble.ca)

by Kitchener-Waterloo BASICS

In an attempt to reverse the flow of highly-corrosive tar sands bitumen through the Haldimand Tract (Six Nations land), the Calgary-based oil company Enbridge is using the ageing Line 9 pipeline. The company is moving forward without the consent from the indigenous peoples whose way of life is directly threatened by the pipeline which has been built on the land where they live.

The danger with pumping is that bitumen is an unprocessed tar sands oil that is mixed with a highly-corrosive natural-gas liquid, and needs to be pumped at a higher temperature and pressure due to its viscosity. As a result, this puts a heavy strain on the aging 38-year-old pipeline. Pumping this oil also comes with a lot of waste that is pumped back into the Athabasca River system, which has an extremely negative effect on the surrounding environment.

Over the years, Enbridge has been dangerously careless when pumping tar sands oil through their pipelines. Between 1999 and 2010, Enbridge has reportedly been responsible for at least 800 spills (approximately 7 million gallons of heavy crude oil). One of the most devastating examples is the 2010 Line 6B spill in the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Michigan. The effects of that spill were massive, and three years and almost one billion dollars later, the spill is still not completely cleaned up. Both Line 9 and 6B were built to transport conventional crude oil, not bitumen.

KW is showing resistance through a coalition of broad-based community organizations who oppose the proposal of the reversal of tar sands oil. Malcolm of Kitchener Ontario Animal Liberation Alliance said, “there was an occupation of the Enbridge Westover pumping station on Beverly Swamp, resulting in delaying the reversal through the area. This inspired people to take action in their own communities. This dirty tar sands oil not only puts people at risk, but also wildlife in the environment as well”.

“Here in Kitchener we have put forward a declaration and used it as a tool to get support from the community. By having info nights, lobbying, and organizing around this declaration, we hope to pressure the council to oppose this attack on our communities,” says Joe Campbell, community organizer.

KW organizers believe that we as a community need to work in solidarity with the indigenous peoples of this land to stop the reversal of the tar sands oil through this land before it’s too late and we have our own Kalamazoo on our hands. For more information, you can visit http://noline9wr.ca/.

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Supporters of the 'Solidarity City' campaign at Toronto City Hall Chambers for the vote on allowing non-status people to access services (Solidarity City Network)

Supporters of the ‘Solidarity City’ campaign at Toronto City Hall Chambers for the vote on allowing non-status people to access services (Solidarity City Network)

by Syed Hussan

Every year thousands of refugee claimants, migrant workers or temporary residents on family, visit and study visas are denied permit renewals or permanent residency in Canada. These migrants have to make the difficult decision of choosing to return to a place where they may not be able to work, live, or be safe, or instead to stay in Canada without papers, and thus without rights and benefits. Many choose to stay.

There are nearly 500,000 undocumented or non-status immigrants in Canada, and over 200,000 of them are in the GTA. If you’re undocumented or know someone that is, here is what you need to know.

1. Basic Services: For decades, undocumented migrants and their supporters have struggled to get basic services for themselves and their communities. As a result, undocumented children can access schools, emergency health services, food banks, public health services, emergency shelters and hostels, labour rights protections and more.  To find out all the services that are accessible to you, how to access them and what to do if you are denied, visit www.solidaritycity.net.

2. Your rights at work: Just because you don’t have immigration papers does not mean that someone can pay you less than minimum wage, or not give you overtime pay or holiday pay. You have the same labour rights as someone with immigration documents. If you are being mistreated or not getting the money you are owed and want to get support, contact the Workers Action Centre at www.workersactioncentre.org  (416) 531-0778 and the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change at www.migrantworkersalliance.org

3. Make an “in-case-of-arrest” plan: Many migrants live without papers in Toronto without being arrested by immigration detention or police, but it’s important to have a plan just in case. Have a friend you trust that can knows where your important papers are, can tell others what’s happening and get in touch with a trustworthy lawyer on your behalf. You may also want to have a bondsperson, a Canadian citizen with some money, who may be able to bail you out. The most important ingredient to stopping a deportation is having a large number of people willing to make noise on your behalf – so stay involved in groups and have friends who will fight for you.

4. Know your Rights when coming in to contact with police and border guards:

  1. Right to Privacy: The RIGHT TO PRIVACY means that, in general, officers aren’t allowed to enter your home. But they can legally enter your home if you invite them in, or if the officers have the TWO necessary warrants.

  2. Right to Silence: The RIGHT TO SILENCE means that you do NOT have to speak to an officer in any situation, unless you’ve already been arrested or detained.

There are lots of important things you need to know about how to exercise these rights.  Although you are legally entitled to these rights does not mean that police officers or border guards will necessarily respect them.  But you should know your legal rights you do have. The Immigration Legal Committee of No One Is Illegal (Toronto) has prepared a full guide in Spanish, French and English that has all that information. Download it for free at http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/knowyourrights

5. Fight for justice: Immigration controls that deny citizenship to some and not others are unfair and unjust. Its not migrants that are stealing from Canadians, it’s the Canadian government that is stealing status from migrants after exploiting their labour and their countries. Get involved with struggles against detentions and deportations. Only when we fight together can we get justice.

A combination of political action and legal strategies have stopped people’s deportations, changed some unjust laws in the short term and created safety for their families. Reach out to organizations like No One Is Illegal – Toronto, Health for All, Migrante Ontario, Justice for Migrant Workers, Gabriela-Toronto or the Caregivers Action Centre, FCJ Refugee Centre, and many others that are part of the migrant justice movements in the GTA.