The scourges of COVID-19 and anti-Black racism have opened our eyes in 2020 more widely than ever before to things that are fundamentally wrong in our society.
We rely on migrant workers, refugee claimants, and others with precarious status to do essential work to keep us fed, cared for, and safe. Yet we deny them the basic rights and supports necessary for them to keep themselves and their families safe.
The pandemic has shown us that we are all profoundly connected to each other – if one person is at risk, we are all at risk. The categories of immigration status are meaningless to the virus, but because our society is organized according to immigration status, many members of society are put in situations where they are particularly exposed to the danger. Whether in cramped living conditions, unsafe working environments, or denied access to health care, many are put at unnecessary and unjustifiable risk.
In the context of #BlackLivesMatter, it is important to note that many of those working as precarious migrants on the front lines of the pandemic are Black. Forcing them to remain with precarious status while relying on them to meet our essential needs only reinforces the racist structures of our society.
Canada depends on immigration for its economic and demographic health. The pandemic makes it difficult to meet the immigration targets in the traditional way, by bringing in people from abroad. But there are thousands of people who are already in Canada, who are already contributing immensely to our society, despite being denied the opportunity to participate fully due to their immigration status. We can easily meet our targets by giving them a swift pathway to permanent residence.
The current crisis gives us an opportunity for a radical transformation. We can and must build a better future where all members of society are treated with justice and equity, as human beings, and not according to their immigration status. Our systems of oppression were built by people; it is entirely up to us if they are permitted to stand, or if, as we recognize our profound interconnectedness, we choose to dismantle these racist and inequitable relics and start over.
20 June 2020 (World Refugee Day)