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:
- A don’t ask, don’t tell policy for workers without status
- Acceptance of the essential employment certificate at face value by police during curfew
- Distribution of municipal IDs for all Montreal residents that would permit workers without status to legally identify themselves without disclosing their immigration status
- 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.”