Racialized people, migrants, displaced people, and refugees have been calling for full and permanent immigration status for all for decades. Now, because of their efforts, Canada’s Minister of Immigration has been tasked to come up with a plan to allow permanent residency (PR) for workers of all skill levels by September 8, 2022. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also instructed the Minister of Immigration to move ahead with the regularization of status for undocumented workers, opening the door to citizenship for low wage essential workers and undocumented people.
Action Canada stands with migrant organizers and calls on the government to take bold steps to guarantee the health and rights of everyone in Canada. We echo the demands of the Migrant Rights Network and ask for the regularization of all undocumented migrants and permanent resident status for all 1.7 million people without it, leaving nobody behind. This must happen alongside a moratorium on detentions, deportations, and other immigration enforcement.
Migrants form the backbone of the country – they help grow our food, take care of our children and elders, and transport goods. Yet, they face many rights violations, including the lack of access to abortion. Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, people in Canada are seeking ways to protect abortion rights. Equitable access to abortion cannot exist without justice for migrants.
Through our toll-free Access Line, a phone and text line service for people in Canada who have questions or need support around sexual and reproductive health, we hear about the many barriers people in Canada experience when trying to access abortion. Each month, we speak to hundreds of people, many of whom must travel to access abortion and pay for related expenses. For many, this means lost income from time off work, as well as paying out of pocket for costs related to travel, accommodation, food, childcare, and eldercare. Access gets even harder for those who experience racism in the health care system, struggle financially, are disabled, are young, or get mistreated because of their gender identity or sexuality.
Alongside these access issues, migrants also face unique barriers. Many must wait three months before being able to access the public health system, are located in remote areas without access to transportation, lack privacy or access to information, and face language barriers. Many migrants also work in highly exploitative environments and lack the labour protections necessary, including paid sick days, to access care without fear of reprisals or of their employment and visas being terminated. Some are sponsored by partners who are abusive and engage in reproductive coercion or control access to necessary documentation. There are also several circumstances in which accessing abortion care in Canada requires travel to the United States. The risk of detention or deportation means that many migrants are unable to access the care they need.
Many Access Line callers face barriers related to their immigration status. We have found that the vast majority of people who are ultimately unable to access abortion in Canada have precarious immigration status or are undocumented. We also support people facing financial barriers to abortion, and some months, migrants and undocumented folks make up as much as one third of all people we support through our Norma Scarborough Emergency Fund. Every year, this fund is depleted and we rely on donations to support people with precarious status who reach out to us for help accessing abortion.
We look forward to Status for All and other steps towards universally accessible services, decent work and labour rights, and economic and racial justice. We affirm that abortion access is deeply connected to other human rights issues which we must work to advance together. The struggle for equal access to abortion runs parallel to other systemic issues because the barriers people face today have been built and sustained by systems of oppression upheld by white supremacy, colonialism, and capitalism.
The right to health is a human right and migrants and undocumented people deserve and are entitled to the same rights as everyone else. Our government must ensure that sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion, are available and accessible for all people. Guaranteeing full and permanent immigration status for all moves us closer to a world where everyone’s rights are realized and upheld.