Migrant workers in Canada stage multi-city protest, call for more COVID-19 protections

Migrant workers and other non-permanent residents — many of whom have been working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic — are taking to the streets in cities across Canada today, calling on Ottawa to grant them greater rights and protections.

Temporary foreign farm labourers, care workers, international students and undocumented workers who have been working throughout the pandemic as “essential workers” say they are being left behind by the Canadian government.

Read more: Migrant farm workers ‘hid’ from coronavirus testing in Windsor-Essex: Doug Ford

Many have fallen ill and cannot access medical treatment, while others have not received wage top-ups offered to other essential workers — all because of their non-permanent status in Canada.

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Meanwhile, migrant or undocumented workers who have lost employment due to the pandemic have been ineligible to receive emergency income supports such as the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, making them even more vulnerable.

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Syed Hussan, executive director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, says Canada’s social welfare, health care and education systems are designed to offer differentiated rights on the basis of people’s status.

He says everyone deserves to have the have the same rights and protections, which is why the alliance and all those marching today are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to grant permanent residency to all non-permanent residents in the country.

Read more: Ontario probing 17 temp agencies after coronavirus outbreaks on farms

The cross-country action comes a week after the death of Juan Lopez Chaparro, a 55-year-old father of four who has been the third migrant farm worker to die from COVID-19 in Canada.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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