Ottawa plans to regularize hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants

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Ottawa plans to regularize hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants

Nearly half a million workers without status could obtain permanent residency, a learned from Radio-Canada. Unheard of in the country's history.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has asked his Minister of Immigration to explore options for regularizing workers undocumented.

A massive regularization program, the largest in Canadian history, could soon see the light of day.

According to information obtained by Radio-Canada, Justin Trudeau's government has taken extensive steps in recent weeks with several organizations to draw the outlines of such a program.

We are exploring and looking at what we could put in place, says a government source, who is not authorized to speak publicly.

“We are looking at ways to regularize people who live in Canada with a precarious status.

— Government source

Ottawa is considering regularizing tens of thousands of people without status. We are talking about potentially around 500,000 people, continues this government source.

Several actors in the immigration community have confirmed this information to us and told us that they have, since this summer, discussions with representatives of Immigration Canada.

Several demonstrations have been organized since the start of the pandemic, in several Canadian cities, to demand the regularization of migrants without status .

The criteria for access to this future regularization program are still unknown. No launch date is circulating either.

We have been gauged, we are aware, but the program is not yet finalized, explains Hady Anne, head of Solidarité sans frontières .

“We hope to see an inclusive program, which will help a lot of people. But it's still unclear. »

— Hady Anne, spokesperson for Solidarity Across Borders

To date, neither temporary workers nor asylum seekers would be affected by this program. Nor, therefore, the thousands of families who recently arrived at Roxham Road, whose file is still being studied.

We are talking more about undocumented immigrants and workers who have had their permit or visa expire in the last few years, or people whose refugee status has been denied, who are stuck in Canada due to a moratorium.

This is the case, for example, of Haitian citizens, who cannot be deported to their country of origin.

Many of these people find themselves without status for various reasons. They didn't come to work under the table. These are vulnerable people who found themselves in this situation without wanting to, specifies our government source, referring in particular to those who left their jobs due to abuse by certain employers.

In reality, this will of the Trudeau government is not a total surprise.

This idea, which has gone completely unnoticed until now, appears in the Prime Minister's mandate letter sent, in last December to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser.

This document calls on the Minister to continue exploring ways to regularize the status of undocumented workers who contribute to Canadian communities.

Questioned by Radio-Canada, Minister Fraser's office confirms such progress and assures that Immigration Canada has recently been in contact with university specialists and industry stakeholders.

“The work to complete this mandate is in progress. »

— Rémi Larivière, spokesperson for Immigration Canada

Immigration Canada will continue to consider new avenues to help more foreigners who currently live in Canada settle here permanently, says Rémi Larivière, by promoting the government's bold and innovative policies. .

According to a federal government publication, there is currently little data available on the number or composition of the undocumented migrant population in Canada. The latter are considered a hidden population and also live in fear of being spotted by the authorities.

Deemed extremely vulnerable by Immigration Canada, undocumented migrants are people who do not have permission to reside or work in Canada. The majority of these people become undocumented by losing their status […] after entering Canada legally. Only a small portion, according to Ottawa, are people who entered illegally, who were victims of human trafficking or who entered Canada illegally.

This is not the first time that Canada is preparing to launch a regularization program. But never on this scale.

We have never seen that, says former lawyer Rivka Augenfeld, very involved in such measures in the past.

“A successful regularization program requires the will of a good minister who has the support of the prime minister. »

— Rivka Augenfeld, ex-president of the Roundtable of Organizations Serving Refugees and Immigrants

There have already been successful regularizations, as was the case with Algerians, when Denis Coderre was minister [federal, in the early 2000s], she continues.

Other programs have also emerged under the Liberals of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, then under the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney.

A pilot project targeting non-status construction workers was also opened in 2020, in the Greater Toronto Area.

Just re-elected as head of Quebec, François Legault does not want to comment for the moment on a possible massive federal program to regularize undocumented immigrants.

Behind the scenes, a question comes up without ceases: will this important regularization program target Quebec's undocumented immigrants? Because of the Immigration Accord signed between Canada and Quebec, the Government of Quebec has a say.

The Liberals can do something that looks good, but Quebec can put a spoke in their wheels, judge Rivka Augenfeld.

According to several people polled by Radio-Canada , optimism does not reign. We fear that Quebec will complicate things, says Hady Anne, of Solidarité sans frontières, pointing to the regularization of guardian angels during the pandemic.

This program, launched at the end of 2020, was reserved for asylum seekers who provided health care to people affected by COVID-19 in health facilities. Despite Ottawa's desire to expand its access, Quebec has refused to go any further.

In the spring of 2021, the Legault government also closed the door to an access route. x27;Rapid acceleration to permanent residence, offered by the federal government, for tens of thousands of temporary workers and foreign students. People residing in Quebec could not participate.

With the current labor shortage, it is hoped that François Legault will now be more generous, believes Frantz André, who heads the Action Committee for People Without Status.

“These people have been living in a broken system for too long, when they have proven themselves to be real citizens. »

— Frantz André, founder of the Non-Status Action Committee

Premier Legault's cabinet, newly re-elected with a large majority despite controversial remarks on immigration during the election campaign, did not want to answer our questions.

We have had no indication from the federal government on this subject, we were soberly answered.

If the desire to regularize the status of vulnerable people is welcomed by many players in the immigration community, concerns exist.

“It's ambitious and interesting, but it could generate a lot of frustration.

— Lisa Middlemiss, Chair of the Immigration Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association

While applauding this federal idea, the lawyer Lisa Middlemiss fears a certain jealousy coming from people who are there legally in Canada.

Many immigrants, temporary workers, currently experience obstacles and long delays in obtaining their permanent residence, recalls the Chair of the Immigration Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association.

Ottawa, for its part, promises to continue to support inclusive immigration programs that meet Canada's economic needs and which fuel our growth.

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