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POSITION PAPER: PROTECTING THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF ALL WORKERS

January 24, 2021

Position Paper submitted to the Committee on Labour and the Economyas part of the consultations on Bill n . 59, Act to Modernize the Occupational Health and Safety Regime

This document was prepared by the Coalition Against Precarious Work, created in 2012 by organizations and associations working with precarious workers, particularly migrants, immigrants and racialized workers.

Coalition members welcome the willingness to “modernize” the occupational health-and-safety regime, an initiative that is all the more important as the crisis at COVID- 19 amplifies the shortcomings of the present regime. However, the draft bill remains too limited, in our view, in affording protect to workers, particularly those who are non- unionized or atypically employed. We deplore the fact that organizations representing non- unionized workers, with certain exceptions, were not invited to participate in the consultation process.


This brief begins by presenting some of the issues in the reform of the OHSA and the LATMP that are of particular concern to workers of recent immigration background. To this are three other issues of major importance to all workers.


The second section presents our proposals for the reform.


This brief concludes with testimonies from workers about their work experiences.

City of Montreal: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is!

The city of Montréal has been talking the talk with community groups and activist networks fighting for regularization for years. It’s time to walk the walk!

For Immediate Release, Friday, February 5th

The Immigrant Workers Centre (IWC) and other groups have been in consultation with the Ville de Montréal since 2017, including a recent meeting last week surrounding the impacts of the curfew on undocumented people in the city. 

Today, the IWC is calling on the city to implement municipal ID cards for all residents regardless of status and to forbid police from enforcing arrest warrants for non-status asylum seekers, and to grant status to all people. Project Montréal must forbid the SPVM from carrying out arrest warrants linked to missed deportation dates for people without status.

The Projet Montreal administration is quick to announce that they have consulted with us, but far too slow to make concrete policy changes. This has to change!

It’s in this context that the IWC publicly expresses support for a resolution being submitted to city council on Friday, February 5th, by Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension mayor Giuliana Fumagalli seconded by City Councilor Marvin Rotrand. The motion calls on the city to:

  1. Demand that the government of Canada regularize the status of migrants and assure that they have access to the same resources as others
  2. Demand that Québec allow access to its special program for asylum seekers to all people without status
  3. Demand that Québec set up a special fund for emergency measures to support migrants without status and provide them with access to healthcare and social services

The IWC and other community groups appreciate the ongoing dialogue with the  Bureau d’intégration des nouveaux arrivants à Montréal (BINAM) about these issues. But it’s not enough. The mayor’s office and city council need to come to the table.

If passed, the IWC calls on the city to be transparent while implementing the resolution. The Centre also calls on the municipal government to allocate financial resources to support community groups who help municipal residents without status.

The IWC believes that Friday’s resolution is an excellent first step. Beyond the resolution, it is crucial that Projet Montréal publicly and directly direct the SPVM to diminish the harm it enacts on non-status people and asylum seekers in the city.

Press Release: “End curfew repression! Stop police harassment!”

The IWC issues four demands to protect precarious essential workers

Montreal, January 26, 2021. Precarious workers demand an immediate end to the harassment, detention, ticketing and arbitrary bullying of essential workers without status by police on the pretext of enforcing the curfew. The Immigrant Workers Centre demand that the following policies be implemented immediately:

  1. A don’t ask, don’t tell policy for workers without status
  2. Acceptance of the essential employment certificate at face value by police during curfew
  3. Distribution of municipal IDs for all Montreal residents that would permit workers without status to legally identify themselves without disclosing their immigration status
  4. That the Quebec government issue financial compensation for all workers regardless of their status who have lost income due to the curfew

Essential workers without status are subject to more danger, financial hardship and precarity than ever before due to the pandemic. The draconian powers granted to police in guise of curfew enforcement have further exacerbated the problem, especially for those with precarious immigration status who rarely have the luxury of working from home. 

“Even before the curfew workers with precarious immigration status were afraid of being interrogated by police in public space. We have repeatedly asked the government and the SPVM for real protection of non-status migrants, by applying the policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” This policy would prevent police from asking for their immigration status and informing the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA),” outlines Immigrant Workers Centre community organizer Viviana Carole Medina.

The curfew gives Montréal police the authority to demand identity documents from non-status essential workers on the frontlines. This could lead to both detention and deportation of essential workers such as delivery drivers, cleaners and transit workers. 

Since the curfew started, numerous workers in precarious situations have been harassed by the police. Several night-shift workers have described being interrogated by police, sometimes for more than 40 minutes, despite presenting an essential employment certificate. These essential workers are serving the community and risking their lives to keep society functioning during the pandemic. They merit respect and support, not intimidation.

“We also asked that a municipal ID card be issued as a fully acceptable form of ID,” Medina continues. “Our requests for change have been left unanswered. The fear of those without status has been exponentially amplified by the curfew because the police have now full authority to interrogate people in the street.” 

The City of Montreal was declared a sanctuary city in 2017 to protect those without status from deportation. That the Montreal police are weaponizing the curfew to harass people with precarious status is consequently hypocritical as well as morally outrageous.

Most essential workers are not on a salary and can’t work from home. Many of those paid by the hour have had their hours or entire shifts cut as depanneurs, fast-food places and some grocery stores shift to closing by 7:30 or earlier due to the curfew. 

It’s unacceptable that the people taking the highest health risk to keep the economy going are losing income without any government financial compensation or even acknowledgment. The Immigrant Workers Centre calls for the Quebec government to immediately issue an emergency income supplement for workers who have had their hours cut due to the curfew for the full amount of income lost.

“Police detain immigrant workers to question them a lot. This wastes our time. We work hard and do honest work during the pandemic. It feels like harassment,” says Gaurav Sharma, a driver for Uber Eats and community organizer at the Immigrant Workers Centre. “For workers without status this is even more dangerous and scary. No one should be without status, especially now- no one is illegal.”

Click here to learn more about your rights during the curfew