TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Feb. 22, 2016) - A coalition of community organizations, legal clinics and an umbrella organization representing immigrant services are appearing before the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) to draw international attention to the growing inequities and disparities facing peoples of colour, immigrants and migrants in Canada.
The Colour of Poverty/Colour of Change Network (COPC), Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (MTCSALC), OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants and the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO) have made a joint submission to the UN CESCR to highlight the growing poverty rates experienced by Canada's communities of colour, and the Canadian Government's unfair and discriminatory treatment towards immigrants and migrants.
As the only coalition representing communities of colour and immigrants attending the CESCR meeting, representatives of COPC, MTCSALC and OCASI will bring forward the challenges and issues facing these communities to the UN gathering.
The Canadian Government's own statistical data has shown that racialized persons - both first-generation immigrants and Canadian-born - are far more likely to be unemployed or underemployed or living in poverty, despite higher workforce participation. As a group, they earn a lower level of income and are more likely to be employed precariously. In general, members of racialized communities are two to four times more likely to live in poverty as compared to non-racialized group members.
"While Canada generally enjoys the reputation of being a country that promotes and respects racial diversity, the lived experiences of many people of colour belie the 'multicultural façade' presented by the Canadian Government," said Avvy Go, Clinic Director of MTCSALC. "By failing to ensure members of racialized communities have equal opportunities to succeed economically, the Canadian Government has thus failed to live up to the its obligations under the UN Convention," said Go.
Other issues that will be brought to the UN's attention include the Government's treatment of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW), who are often subject to employer abuse due to their lack of status, inability to avail themselves of employment and human rights protections, and the denial of benefits and healthcare to many migrant workers: vulnerable groups that are made up of mostly people of colour from developing countries.
"Apart from Indigenous peoples, Canada is, and historically always has been, a nation of immigrants. Yet, consistently, our Government has tried to restrict the right of Canadians to reunite with their families, by tying the right of family reunification to increasingly onerous income requirements for sponsors, while knowing full well that those who are least able to meet the requirement are disabled persons, persons of colour, and women," said Vince Wong, Staff lawyer at MTCSALC.
"We also want the UN to know about the changes that have been made by the previous Government to the Live-in Caregivers program (LCP) which made it much harder for the caregivers to become permanent residents. The new Government has promised to reform the TFW Program, but they have not provided details on the goals for the review, or what they will do to reform the Caregivers Program or family class immigration," said Amy Casipullai, Senior Policy Coordinator at OCASI.
The community coalition hopes the UN will be calling on the Canadian Government to take concrete actions to level the playing field for racialized communities by strengthening the federal Employment Equity Act, and by adopting a National Anti-Poverty Strategy with targeted measures to address poverty as experienced by racialized communities.
These groups will also be calling on Canada, through the UN, to facilitate more family reunification, create pathways to permanent residence for all Temporary Foreign Workers, and lift the cap on the LCP so that more live-in caregivers can settle in Canada permanently.