Hundreds organize in Vancouver to demand justice for migrant workers

Vancouver’s CBC Plaza was filled with cries of “Status for all” and “Stop deportation and regularization” on Sunday afternoon, March 17, as over one hundred people attended the Migrant Spring rally hosted by the Migrant Rights Network. Rallies took place across Canada on March 16 and 17 as part of a wider movement to call attention to the precarious status of undocumented migrant workers and demand the regularization of Canadian permanent residence.

These demands were brought forth with increasing urgency. As of June 17, two pilot pathways to permanent residence — the Home Child Care Provider Pilot and Home Support Worker Pilot — are set to expire, putting thousands of care workers at risk of deportation. Without these pathways, migrant care workers continue to face barriers to immigration due to language fluency and higher education requirements. For those working low-wage jobs, the permanent residence application fee may already be out of reach.

Posters line the steps at CBC Plaza calling for the regularization of migrant status at the Migrant Spring rally.
Posters line the steps at CBC Plaza, calling for the regularization of migrant status at the Migrant Spring rally on March 17, 2024.

One central talking point was the hypocrisy of narratives surrounding migrants. Canadian universities profit by charging international students higher tuition fees than domestic students. According to CIC News, the average cost of undergraduate tuition is 5.3 times higher for international students than domestic students. At the same time, many migrant rights activists have argued that the Canadian government’s narrative around migrants and housing shortage has furthered immigrant xenophobia. In reality, migrant workers are crucial to both Canada’s financial and cultural economy, and they are often the ones who suffer most from high costs of living.

Moreover, migrant rights are inextricably tied to food justice. Failure to protect agricultural workers endangers the food systems we rely upon, exacerbating inaccess to healthy, affordable food. Racial discrimination exists throughout food systems labour, wherein the majority of farmworkers, food service workers, and other labourers exposed to low-wage, higher risk with fewer protections, are people of colour. Meanwhile, farm owners and operators are disproportionately white, creating an inequitable power dynamic. Protecting migrant workers means protecting our food systems and supporting racial justice.

Many migrant workers have reported physical and mental health issues due to separation from family and the strain of an uncertain future. Without official status, however, these workers are unable to access the medical resources they need. There is irony in the fact that those providing care for others cannot access care for themselves.

Ian Marcuse at the 2024 Migrant Spring rally at CBC Plaza.
VNFN Coordinator Ian Marcuse stands in solidarity on behalf of the VNFNs at the Migrant Spring rally on March 17, 2024.

The VNFNs adamantly endorse the work of the Migrant Rights Network and other organizations whose goal is to ensure the protected status of migrant workers, international students and refugees, who comprise Canada’s vast workforce and culturally rich population.

To demand federal support for migrants and recognition of their status, the Migrant Rights Network is calling on all to draft a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller on behalf of your organization: Request for Letters from Organizations from Migrant Rights Network.

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Activists attend the Migrant Spring rally at CBC Plaza.