Essential Undocumented & Migrant Workers Fear For Their Future, Call for Income Supports

Toronto, CANADA

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TORONTO, April 16, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In a rare and historic moment, essential undocumented and migrant workers from across Canada and Mexico spoke out today calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to fill the gaps that exclude them from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Migrant Rights Network - Canada’s only migrant led national body - released a letter outlining solutions to ensure income for 1.8 million migrants in the country.

Laura Lopez, a mother of two from Vancouver and a member of Sanctuary Health, is one of over half a million people in Canada who are undocumented. She’s calling for CERB to be accessible to people without Social Insurance Numbers.

“My biggest fear is that we are going to end up on the street, us and our two kids,” she said. “People like us, working in construction or cleaning, we are essential workers. Help in this crisis must be universal.”

Laura’s story is echoed across the country. Lisa Cheun, a member of Butterfly, is a refugee claimant without a work permit in Toronto who worked at a massage parlour until businesses were shut down this month.

“I paid more than $4000 in income taxes just in March. But I cannot get the government funding support because I have not obtained my work permit this year. But I have lost my job and have no income. What can I do now?”

The Social Insurance Numbers of temporary residents expire alongside their work and study permits. A valid SIN is necessary to access the CERB program.

Alina Przybyl is a Polish student at Toronto’s George Brown College in the Assaulted Women and Children’s Counselling program and a member of Migrant Students United. She applied for a renewal of her study permit three months ago, and is still waiting for it. SIN renewal will take another three months.

“In a time of a global crisis, when we keep hearing that 'we are in this together', but many of us are still facing barriers. We are all affected and we should all be supported, regardless of our immigration status,” added the former restaurant worker, who recently lost her jobs both on and off campus because of COVID-19.

In order to flatten the curve, everyone needs to follow public health directives. But without income, undocumented and migrant workers are some of the most at risk for losing housing, access to food and healthcare.

The problem extends beyond Canada’s borders. Tens of thousands of essential migrant agricultural workers are unable or afraid to travel. Lost incomes are throwing families into crisis the world over.

“I have been coming to Canada to work for 17 years. But, because of COVID19, I have not been able to travel to Canada to work. I think it is only fair and that I have a right to receive government support because, like any Canadian worker, I have a Social Insurance Number,” says Gustavo Antonio, a migrant farm worker member of RAMA who works in the Okanagan Valley and is still waiting to travel.

“In a public health emergency, we cannot protect anyone if we do not protect everyone. Over half a million workers are in a state of abject despair. Immediate comprehensive government action is necessary,” added Syed Hussan, Executive Director, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “Most migrant and undocumented people are essential workers that are caring for all of us, and keeping the economy moving right now. They cannot be allowed to go hungry and die because they don’t have an active Social Insurance Number. We have a solution and are calling on the government to meet with us to ensure migrants get the support they need and status now.”

Nearly 5,000 people and many national organizations have signed on to Migrant Rights Network’s calls:


Migrant Rights Network is calling on the Federal Government to meet with migrant-led organizations to create mechanisms to:

  1. Ensure residents without Social Insurance Numbers have access to Canada Emergency Response Benefit through the provision of accessible Individual Tax Numbers where information is not shared with immigration authorities.
  2. Extend access to CERB for those whose SIN has expired.
  3. Ensure that Seasonal TFWP and SAWP workers have access to income supports for delays in contracts, both inside and outside the country.
  4. Ensure that migrant workers who are forced to leave jobs or those that aren’t starting contracts right now are not deemed to have “quit voluntarily” and receive income supports.
  5. Extend income supports to migrant and undocumented residents who did not earn at least $5,000 in the previous 12 months.

Migrant Rights Network is Canada’s Migrant Coalition, and includes Butterfly (Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network), Caregivers’ Action Centre, Centre des travailleuses et travailleurs immigrants, Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto, Collaborative Network to End Exploitation, Cooper Institute and the Prince Edward Island Action Team for Migrant Workers’ Rights, Durham Region Migrant Solidarity Network, FCJ Refugee House, Fuerza Migrante Vancouver, GABRIELA Ontario, IAVGO Community Legal Clinic, Income Security Advocacy Centre, Migrant Students United, Migrant Worker Solidarity Network - Manitoba, Migrant Workers Alliance - Niagara, Ontario, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, Migrante (Alberta, BC, Canada, Manitoba, Ontario), No One Is Illegal (Toronto, Halifax, London, Vancouver), Migrant Resource Centre Canada, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, OHIP For All, PCLS Community Legal Clinic, Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (RAMA), Okanagan region, BC, Sanctuary Health, Solidarity Across Borders, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, UFCW Canada, UNIFOR, Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers and Caregivers Rights, Workers Action Centre and Workers United

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