The COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique set of challenges for migrant workers, non-status individuals, and other vulnerable groups in Canada. The Agenda looks at this issue with Francisco Rico-Martinez, co-director, FCJ Refugee Centre; and Dr. Rupaleem Bhuyan, a University of Toronto social work associate professor and a member of the Rights of Non-Status Women Network.
Construction worker Cesar Paredes, whose wife is due with their first child on May 29, was told by his foreman last Friday that there’s no job for him and 10 other crew members as construction work slowed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Unlike his Canadian colleagues, the undocumented worker from Mexico is not eligible for employment insurance or any provincial or financial aid for those who have lost their jobs due to the crisis.
Paredes’ only social safety net is his physical labour — and some savings, which he says have been depleted after he paid thousands of dollars to an immigration consultant for a promised work permit that was never delivered.
“Half of the guys on our crew are like me, from Latin America, with no status in Canada. We have looked for other jobs, but there are no jobs out there,” said the 31-year-old Toronto man, who worked as an engineer in the oil and gas industry before coming here in 2018 as a tourist.
“I have $300 left. We have no money for rent. I don’t know how long the money will last. At least my Canadian colleagues can still keep afloat. I have nothing but an unknown future.”
Over the last two weeks, Toronto’s FCJ Refugee Centre has been fielding calls from people with precarious immigration status, who have been let go from their jobs and are in need of food and shelter.
“I had three calls today alone from people who had no food in their fridge and were facing eviction from their apartment next month,” said Francisco Rico-Martinez, the centre’s co-director.
“Migrant workers, non-status people, international students and temporary residents are the most vulnerable because there’s a lack of language and understanding of the system, and they have no idea of what resources are out there for them, if any.”
His group is one of more than three dozen community organizations in Ontario that are urging all levels of governments to extend their COVID-19 income support and essential services to all residents, regardless of immigration status.
Since March 16, more than a million Canadians have applied for employment insurance as the pandemic ravages Canada’s economy.
The federal government has rolled out the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, among other measures, to provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose income as a result of the pandemic.
However, the government assistance is designed for Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and won’t be available to most of those in the country with temporary status, said Avvy Go, director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic in Toronto.
New immigrants and undocumented workers are still being asked to cover their own health-care costs despite the Ontario government’s promise that this wouldn’t happen during the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates say.
“This is unfair because these are people who have been working and sustaining the economy,” said Loly Rico, the co-director of FCJ Refugee Centre in Toronto.
“It’s a very high number of people that live in Toronto and need health coverage.”
FCJ Refugee Centre normally operates a health clinic for uninsured people, which saw about 15 patients a week and had a one-month waiting list before it closed because of the pandemic. After Ontario sent a directive telling hospitals to serve all patients, regardless of their insurance coverage, the centre’s health-care staff started sending patients to hospitals.
For decades, we as a community have gathered around our own kitchen table. To share coffee in the morning, to share lunch, have meetings, celebrations, birthdays, conversations and build connections. We’ve worked to support people as they build new homes around kitchen tables in their new lives here. But that process has been incredibly difficult in recent months, and this crisis has magnified those challenges for so many.
For too many people, the kitchen table where families want to gather to break bread and share a meal has become a reminder of the food security they don’t have access to.
With the initiative, ‘From Our Kitchen Table to Yours’ we have provided food security measures to 30 homes already just in the last week. In the coming days, due to the recent increase in your generous donations, we now have the capacity to reach another 40 families.
Your donation is making an immeasurable difference in the lives of precarious migrants (families, youth, adults and seniors) – all of the people who make up our enriched community. So this is a brief message of thanks to you.
Thank you for grace and solidarity.
Thank you for acknowledging a population so often isolated, marginalized and forgotten.
Thank you for walking with us…and for walking together with uprooted people.
Thank you for building a borderless humanity…by supporting one refugee or migrant at a time.
Thanks, just thanks.
As part of our COVID-19 response we are looking for support for women at our shelter, youth and other precarious migrants that do not have access to the emergency benefits and measures during the present health crisis. Residents of our houses, youth and clients have been laid off and need a lot of help.
You are welcome to support with GROCERY GIFT CARDS, BASKET WITH PERSONAL CARE KITS, or visit our website and make your donation through Canada Help. https://www.fcjrefugeecentre.org/get-involved/donate/
Look for the category FUND and select “FROM OUR KITCHEN’S TABLE… TO YOURS. IN SOLIDARITY WITH PRECARIOUS MIGRANTS “
You can read about the situation they are facing in the following article: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/04/01/as-coronavirus-wreaks-havoc-these-precarious-workers-have-no-one-to-turn-to.html
Also you can find other initiatives we are implementing: an Open Letter signed by community organizations and groups in Ontario in solidarity with precarious migrants and their families.
In unique times like this, Canadians must come together and not leave anyone behind.
Thank you in advance for your support, walking together with uprooted people and in solidarity
FCJ Refugee Centre Community
We care about your health and wellbeing and want to make sure you are informed. Please find useful information in our resource booklet HOW TO… FIND HELP
This is a toolkit with information about how to find support during the crisis of the COVID-19.
(Immigration and settlement support)
-How COVID-19 is impacting immigration and refugee procedures
-Exemptions & travel restrictions
-How to make a refugee claim inland under COVID 19 instructions
-Processing times and extensions
-Access to foodbanks
-Shelter in Toronto
-What to do in domestic violence situations
-Access to Ontario Works
More than 30 community organizations and groups in Ontario endorsed an Open Letter in Solidarity with Migrant Workers, Non-Status individuals and their families as community workers, organizers, volunteers, teachers, students and residents of Ontario, Canada.
The letter is in Solidarity with Migrant Workers, Non-Status individuals and their families as community workers, organizers, volunteers, teachers, students and residents of Ontario, Canada.
In unique times like this, Canadians must come together and not leave anyone behind.
Walking together with uprooted people and in solidarity:
To read the letter click here
Considering recent developments related to COVID-19, please be advised that Ready Tours scheduled between March 17th and April 3rd are cancelled. Keep in consideration that effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, all in-person hearings and mediations were postponed until further notice. Please contact us after the first week of April for details on the upcoming Refugee Hearing Tours scheduled in April.
More information about postponed refugee hearings click here: https://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/news/2020/Pages/covid19-advisory-notice.aspx
More information about the Ready Tour Registrations:
The FCJ Refugee Centre continues to work in solidarity with precarious migrants. We recognize that these populations are severely affected by every single precarity already as racialized and marginalized persons, and with the health and safety of our entire community in mind, we will be making some adjustments to our daily work environment. We will continue to remotely offer as many services as possible by phone, e-mail, or any other electronic means available to us.
We are encouraging our staff and volunteers to continue working from home and come to the office only when necessary. Working from the office is only recommended if they do not need to take public transportation or if they feel comfortable doing so and the ride is not long. We are also committed to practicing cleanliness and social distancing at the office as per the recommendations by the public health.
Due to all the information listed above, and with the encouragement of staff, as of today until further notice, we will switch our way of delivering services to:
Limiting in-person services to the most urgent, moving towards phone, email and any other electronic ways available to us. Particularly related to applications and procedures where the relevant Federal and Provincial institutions have relaxed deadlines, and increased flexibility of their appointments and intake.
For any inquiries on any issue or situation related to immigration and refugee process, as well as about all our services please either contact us at the emails below or call 416-469-9754 and dial the extension below:
Loly Rico, co-director: Ext. 224 firstname.lastname@example.org
Francisco Rico-Martinez, co-director: Ext. 227 email@example.com
Diana Gallego, Associate Director: Ext. 225 firstname.lastname@example.org
We will still be serving clients who are in urgent need due to deadlines that are still in effect, or fundamental needs, while limiting their presence in the office to the most minimum (e.g. one family member). Such clients will only come after they confirm that they haven’t had any recent travel outside of Canada, haven’t been in contact with anyone who has travelled recently, don’t have any presenting Covid-19 symptoms, and haven’t been in contact with anyone with Covid-19 symptoms (cough, fever etc.)
Until further notice, the Primary Care Clinic, which is managed by the Inner City Health Associates, will provide appointments on a virtual care mode or via phone as need. If clients need to renew medication we encourage them to call our Centre and we will explain the procedures.
We have cancelled all our group sessions & workshops until further notice.
We thank you for your patience in this time and look forward to continuing to work together with all uprooted people and our entire community.
The FCJ Refugee Centre Team
Dear friends , we wanted to update you on some changes we are doing during our INTAKE DAY on Mondays.
To reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, FCJ REFUGEE CENTRE changed the DROP INS on Mondays to orientations by phone or by e-mail. If you want to refer clients to us please provide them with the following contact information:
416-469 97 54 with Alexandra or Email email@example.com