Canada immigration news: Thousands of migrants and their supporters took to the streets in Canadian cities throughout the country over the weekend to keep up pressure on Ottawa as it develops a new pathway for undocumented migrants to become permanent residents.
In Canada’s biggest city, hundreds protested in the rain on Saturday.
“We have a historic opportunity right now to fix a wrong that has been going on for many, many years,” Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), reportedly told the Canadian Press.
“We want to make sure that Parliament does not in any way delay.”
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The protests came only days after Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) confirmed there is work being done to build on existing pilot programs and develop a new pathway for undocumented workers to become permanent residents.
Immigration department officials, though, have so far refused to divulge either what form that new pathway will take, how many applicants it will admit to Canada, or when it might be unveiled.
“We cannot speculate on future program or policy decisions,” replied IRCC spokesperson Michelle Carbert in an e-mail to Immigration.ca.
The IRCC spokesperson would only confirm work is underway and the immigration department is working with academic experts and industry stakeholders, including the Canadian Council for Refugees and Migrant Rights Network.
Protests were planned for 13 cities during the weekend. including Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver, Fredericton and St. John’s.
Hussan reportedly said Ottawa needs to create this new pathway for the estimated 500,000 undocumented migrants in Canada and to ensure permanent resident status for all 1.2 million migrants with temporary status.
Unions, including some representing journalists, were also present at the protests.
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Outside Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s downtown constituency office, 19-year-old Merari Borgez reportedly told the crowd about the difficulties her family faced getting healthcare and education as undocumented migrants.
“Living without status is dehumanizing,” she reportedly said. “We don’t want pity. We want action.”
As Canada works on creating that new pathway, the IRCC is building on the lessons it has learnt through its launches of innovative programs which have successfully transitioned individuals in Canada on a temporary status or with no status to permanent residency.
“Most notably, programs such as the Guardian Angels, the Out-of-Status Construction Workers Pilot, and the pathways to permanent residence for temporary workers and international graduates,” wrote Carbert.
The Guardian Angels special pathway was quickly put in place at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, between December 2020 and August 2021, for refugee claimants who were then already providing direct patient care in the health sector.
Out-of-Status Construction Workers Program Extended Through To January 2
“Once we confirmed that applicants were eligible and had the required work experience for this program, also known as Guardian Angels, any removal order under which they were referred was suspended until a final decision is made on their candidacy,” said Carbert.
The temporary public policy for Out-of-Status Construction Workers in Toronto is another pathway to permanent residency. It was launched in 2020 and then extended through to Jan. 2 next year – or until 500 applicants and their family members have been granted permanent residence, whichever comes first.
That pathway recognizes the economic contributions of these workers and aims to address their vulnerability due to their lack of immigration status, said Carbert.
“The government is working with the Canadian Labour Congress, who refers applicants who have a strong likelihood of meeting the eligibility requirements of the public policy to IRCC,” she said.
“Eligible applicants may apply for a temporary resident permit and an open work permit to remain and continue working in Canada while their permanent resident application is processed and finalized.”
Last year, the IRCC also launched the one-time Temporary Resident-to-Permanent Resident (TR-to-PR) pathway which was open to accept 90,000 temporary workers and international graduates already in Canada.
News of the current pathway under development by Immigration Minster Sean Fraser and his team at the IRCC was first broken by the Toronto Star who quoted an anonymous source
With the new pathway, the IRCC is hoping to tap into an already existing trend of temporary residents applying for – and getting – permanent residence in Canada.
Last year, almost 169,000 foreign nationals who had been in Canada with work permits gained their permanent residency, making up roughly 41.6 per cent of all new permanent residents to Canada in 2021.
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“Additionally, more than 157,000 former international students became permanent residents in 2021, a new record, including more than 88,000 who transitioned directly from a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) to permanent status,” said Carbert.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, IRCC will continue to explore new avenues to help more foreign nationals already living in Canada to make this their permanent home.
“This is an opportunity for us to look at best practices and lessons learned from our previous experiences to ensure the most inclusive and effective public policy.”
In a letter calling on the immigration minister to create a new pathway for undocumented migrants in Canada, Unifor – the same union which represents Toronto Star journalists who broke the story of this new pathway – suggests there may be many more of these people in Canada.
“In order for these permanent residency pathway and regularization programs to make a real difference in the lives of the over 1.7 million migrants currently without secure status in Canada, they must be made as open and accessible as possible,” wrote Unifor national president Lana Payne in that letter dated Aug. 30 this year.
Certainly, many people have crossed the border into Canada at unauthorized border crossings in the past decade or so but official record keeping only goes back as far as 2017.
In the first six months of this year alone, the IRCC estimates 30,238 asylum seekers came into Canada and made refugee claims through these unauthorized border crossings, 24,811 of which are still pending.
Last year, an estimated 79,052 such asylum seekers came in at these crossings, with 64,254 of those still pending.