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Historic legal victory for migrant workers’ right to employment insurance

Press release

 

Immigrant Workers Centre, Mouvement Action-Chômage de Montréal, Association of Progressive Jurists (AJP)

 

Montreal May 24, 2019

 

On May 10th, 2019, the Tax Court of Canada made a historic ruling in recognizing that temporary foreign workers can be eligible to receive employment insurance (EI) benefits, even if they have worked without a valid work permit.

 

Accompanied by the Immigrant Workers Centre, a group of approximately 18 temporary foreign workers from Guatemala appealed a decision by the Tax Court of Canada which refused to recognize that their employment was insurable under Canadian law.

 

In fact, these workers, recruited through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program were victims of fraud perpetrated by several companies in Quebec. Those companies deceived them by telling them that they could work for different employers than the one which originally hired them. However, this goes against the law.

 

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) considered that the hours they had worked were not insurable, since their work permits didn’t allow them to be employed by other companies. The CRA has systematically excluded a considerable number of unemployed migrant workers under the pretext that their employment wasn’t covered by a work permit. This exclusion exacerbates a situation of vulnerability.

 

In this precedent setting ruling, the Tax Court of Canada concluded that a work can be insurable according to the Employment Insurance Act, even if hours worked were the result of an employment undertaken without a valid work permit. According to the 48 page ruling, the CRA’s practice violates the Employment Insurance Act.

 

It considers that the prohibition to work without valid permit doesn’t necessarily imply that workers are excluded from EI, given the state’s obligation to guarantee access for all workers to public social services. As a result, the Court considers it in the public interest to recognize the important contribution of migrant workers to the Canadian economy and that it’s unacceptable to systematically exclude them.

 

The Court noted that the obligation placed on foreign workers to have a work permit in Canada is rooted historically in prioritizing Canadian citizens in labour markets. Nevertheless, in its analysis, the Court found that in the current context, “its obvious that thousands of temporary agricultural workers don’t represent a threat or obstacle to the rights of Canadian workers.”

 

The Immigrant Workers Centre, Mouvement Action-Chômage de Montréal and the Association of Progressive Jurists (AJP) want to seize this opportunity to highlight this important step forward for migrant worker rights.

 

Viviana Medina, an organizer with the IWC, said: “This historic decision doesn’t just mean justice for this group of Guatemalan workers, but also for thousands of temporary workers for whom access to social protection and labour rights is systematically denied. We also hope that this decision which emanates from a federal court obliges the Minister of Public Security to recognize that interdiction measures, which prohibit this group of workers from returning to Canada, because they worked without a work permit, are unfounded, is ridiculous and unacceptable.”

 

Jérémie Dhavernas, organizer from Mouvement Action-Chômage de Montréal, says: “It’s incredible to have to go to the Tax Court of Canada to establish a right that should already be evident. Since 1990, the Canadian state has systematically violated the rights of workers to EI, including migrants and non-migrants. We are pleased with this victory, which could possibly help in other struggles to reduce abuses suffered by migrant workers.”

 

Mr Richard-Alexandre Laniel, the workers’ lawyer and director of the AJP, affirms: “All workers, regardless of their immigration status and national origin, should have the right to state services for social protection. This ruling is even more important since it reverses a line of jurisprudence which systematically excludes temporary foreign workers without a valid work permit from EI benefits.”

 

The people below, as well as one member of the group who participated in this legal process, are available for interviews.

 

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Media contacts:
-Richard-Alexandre Laniel, Association of Progressive Jurists: 514 690 2988
-Viviana Medina, Immigrant Workers Centre: 514 342 2111
-Jérémie Dhavernas, Mouvement Action-Chômage de Montréal : 514 271-4800

What’s Wrong with Rights? Social movements, law and liberal imaginations

Radha D’Souza in conversation
with
Dolores Chew (CERAS)
Devlin Kuyek (GRAIN)
Aziz Choudry (Immigrant Workers Centre/McGill University)

 

18H30, Wednesday 2 MayImmigrant Workers Centre 110-4755 Avenue Van Horne
Metro Plamondon (Plamondon exit)

 

Radha D’Souza has worked as an organizer and lawyer for labour movements, democratic rights and social movements in the Asia Pacific region. As a legal scholar, she has written extensively on the politics, human rights and social justice issues in non-Western countries. Her latest book, What’s Wrong with Rights? was released by Pluto Press in January 2018. She is a Reader in Law at the University of Westminster and is currently a visiting scholar at McGill University’s Law Faculty.

 

Dolores Chew is a founding member of the South Asian Women’s Community Centre and of the March 8thCommittee of Women of Diverse Origins. She is also a member of CERAS, teaches history and humanities at Marianopolis College and is a Research Associate at Concordia University’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute.

 

Devlin Kuyek is a Montreal-based researcher and activist with GRAIN (www.grain.org), a small international organization based in Barcelona that works with social movements around the world to support peasant agriculture and food sovereignty.

 

Aziz Choudry is associate professor and Canada Research Chair in social movement learning and knowledge production in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University, and visiting professor at the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation, University of Johannesburg. He serves on the board of the Immigrant Workers Centre, Montreal.

Gathering for May Day 2018!

Organized by the Coalition against Precarious Work

in front of the Labour Standards Commission
500 Rene-Levesque West , Montreal
Tuesday May 1st @ 5pm-6pm

 

This May 1st, the Coalition Against Precarious Work (Pinay, Immigrant Workers Centre, Migrant Workers Association of Quebec, Temporary Agency Workers Association and Mexican United for  Regularization) will hold a gathering in front of the CNESST on 500 Rene Lévesque between 5pm and 6pm. The rally will highlight the plight of immigrant workers in Quebec and will demand that the Employment and Labour Ministries to do more to protect the rights of precarious workers.

 

There will be a short program with speeches from different organizations and some cultural and street theater presentations.  Please come out to support a May 1st celebration that is inclusive of immigrant workers.

 

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OTHER ACTIONS ON MAY 1 IN MONTREAL

Gathering with food and speeches at 2:30 pm at Parc Metro. Departure of the neighborhood demonstration at 16H00.
Bouffe contre le fascisme / Food Against Fascism – Montréal is in charge of food !

Follow-up of CLAC anti-capitalist protest in downtown Montreal.

As workers, unemployed, students and tenants, our best defense against those who exploit and abuse us is solidarity. That is why the Industrial Workers of the World (SITT-IWW Montreal) invites you to gather and fight together in the Parc-Extension on May 1st.

Our struggles are multiplying on several fronts at the same time. Just like the attacks on us. Strikes and lockouts are muted by the power of the courts, the public sector privatizes and burns its employees, our wages stagnate while our rents increase, racist speeches become commonplace to the delight of the ruling class. Holding the G7 paralyzes a complete region for wealth and power to move the planet. And all that, while bosses and politicians share the profits.

But no matter what, we fight! Community groups take to the streets to denounce social inequalities. Tenants from working-class neighborhoods are mobilizing against gentrification. Women denounce and take public space with #MeToo. Anti-racist solidarity networks are multiplying to counter the rise of the extreme right. Nurses say, “Enough is enough!” And refusal to run out in silence. The most precarious workers are organizing and solidarity is rising.

We are not as isolated as bosses and politicians want to imply. We are not just pawns that will vote and watch the boss decide our fate. We fight to make ourselves heard. And that’s why we must go beyond corporatism, stand together and make the bridge between our struggles, that’s our strength!

It is with this spirit of solidarity that the SITT-IWW Montréal invite you to demonstrate on Tuesday, May 1st, in the Parc-Extension neighborhood, on the occasion of International Workers’ Day, for the whole of the scander: WE ARE NOT ALONE!

 

iwc_cti@yahoo.com
(514)342-2111
www.iwc-cti.ca

“That was a kidnapping”: CBSA cuts fence to deport Lucy Granados with only the clothes on her back

Press Release

Lucy-detention_centre_bnner

Banner on fence of Laval Immigration Detention Centre in Laval, Québec.

 

Supporters call on Minister Hussen to Bring Lucy Home

 

Montreal, 16 April — Lucy Francineth Granados arrived in Guatemala late on April 13th with only the clothes on her back after a turbulent final morning in Canada. Prevented from removing Lucy from the Laval Immigration Detention Centre by around 50 community members forming a festive blockade, at around 8am CBSA officers cut their way through a fence behind the detention centre to assure her deportation at 9:15.

 

“That was a kidnapping, what they did with me. no one saw me leave. At the airport, no one checked my passport. It was unjust.” said Lucy. Lucy was forced to leave all her luggage behind.

 

“Lucy told us she caught a brief glimpse of the sit-in before officials smuggled her out the back. Surrounded by tense CBSA agents and police crying “vite, vite,” Lucy was frog-marched through snow to a CBSA vehicle waiting on a nearby road. Accompanied by many cars, she was brought to the airport, driven directly onto the tarmac and mounted the plane, which took off 15 minutes later,” said William Van Driel of Solidarity Across Borders.

 

“Lucy was accompanied by two CBSA agents and a doctor on the long journey. The doctor was a fig leaf to mask the fact that the government did not respect the recommendations of four doctors that she not be deported.  She arrived alive but traumatized and with her arm still partially immobile and numb from a CBSA-inflicted injury during her arrest three weeks earlier.” Van Driel added.

 

“The question we have to ask is why the government went to the incredible length of cutting a fence to sneak her out in the face of steadfast public opposition? Were they so bent on getting rid of this single mother to silence a campaign that has drawn public attention to CBSA abuse? Or is it the symbol she represents as a voice for the rights of undocumented migrants, a problem the Trudeau government seems determined not to address?” said Van Driel.

 

“We are calling on Minister Goodale to investigate CBSA abuse and violence in Lucy’s case. We are also demanding that Immigration Minister Hussen accept Lucy’s Humanitarian and Compassionate application immediately, so that she can return to her home and community,” said Viviana Medina, a community organiser with the Immigrant Workers Centre.

 

Lucy’s application for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds (H&C) was submitted in September 2017. Her case meets the criteria and if the ministers had simply agreed to examine it before deporting her, it would have been accepted. However, it is very unusual for H&Cs to be accepted once the applicant is deported. If it is accepted, she would normally be able to return to Canada.

 

Lucy, a single mother and a community organizer for the rights of other undocumented women and temporary workers, lived in Montreal for nine years. Since her arrest on March 20th, Lucy received extensive support from across the country. This included visits to MPs across the country, hundreds of phone calls and emails to Minister Hussen’s offices, letters, articles, rallies, vigils, and an 8-day sit-in, as well as a petition with over 14 000 signatures.

 

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Supporters demand justice, proper medical attention for Lucy Granados, who faces deportation Friday, April 13, 2018

Press Release

Montreal, 11 April 2018 – Supporters of Lucy Francineth Granados demand recourse for rights violations as well as appropriate medical attention for the single mother of three, who is facing deportation to Guatemala on April 13th, after living in Montreal for nine years. On Monday, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) refused to grant an administrative stay of deportation to Lucy; on Tuesday, the agency opposed her motion to be heard by the Federal Court.

 

“How can we accept a society in which our neighbours are brutalized by the CBSA and then, when they object, rushed out of the country – with injuries inflicted by the CBSA unhealed? Where is the justice, where is the humanity if there is no way to hold the CBSA accountable for its actions towards migrants?” asked William Van Driel, a member of Solidarity Across Borders and a friend of Lucy’s.

 

“We have filed a human rights complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission on behalf of Lucy. We are appalled by the physical and psychological injury inflicted on her by the CBSA, the way that the advice of independent medical experts has been set aside and Lucy’s health treated with cavalier indifference while in CBSA custody. We believe that the CBSA has cruelly violated her human rights,” said Immigrant Workers Centre organizer Viviana Medina.

 

“The CHRC seems to be the only way Lucy can seek redress against the CBSA. However, legal experts tell us that people like Lucy with precarious status have been excluded in the past. It is also so limited that we were not able to include significant CBSA legal abuse, where a CBSA officer made a false representation to Lucy’s lawyer,” added Van Driel. “We are further concerned that the complaint will not proceed if Lucy is deported, as CBSA seems very intent on.”

 

“We have 48-hours to stop Lucy’s deportation and we must continue to fight, not only for this member of our community but for her children as well,” said Rehana Hashmi, initiator of the Mothers for Lucy Sit-in outside CBSA offices, which enters its 7th day today.

 

“So far Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale have failed to show their humanity, or to acknowledge the widespread public support for Lucy, or even to carry out their legal duties by responding to Lucy’s application for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds. But I have hope they still will,” added Hashmi. Over 10,000 Canadians have signed a petition in support of the undocumented Montrealer, and public letters have been launched at several universities with signatures from hundreds of academics and students.

 

On Tuesday, Granados’ lawyers turned to the Federal Court in a bid to stop the federal government from deporting her and to force Immigration Minister Hussen to respond to Lucy’s application for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds (filed in September 2017). However, the CBSA is asking that Lucy not even be heard by the court.

 

“We call upon the Canadian government to fulfill its human rights obligations and act on its stated promises to protect the health and well-being of migrants. Lucy’s story shows that the well-being of migrant women like Lucy is not a priority for the Canadian government, and that there is extremely limited legal recourse to challenge this.” added Medina.

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Immigrant Workers Centre iwc-cti.org Tél. 514 342 2111

Timeline: www.solidarityacrossborders.org/en/timeline

Let Lucy Stay Campaign page: https://bit.ly/2GrwsZk

Solidarity Across Borders solidaritesansfrontieres@gmail.com www.solidarityacrossborders.org  514-222-0205, 514 894 2455, 514-992-1662