Over 200 people gathered last Saturday at Norman Bethune Square to march in solidarity against the detention and deportation of migrants. The demonstration was organized by the Status For All Coalition, which is composed of migrant justice groups Solidarity Across Borders (SAB), Mexicans United for Regularization, and No One Is Illegal-Montreal.
“We take the streets to demand an end to detentions, and end to deportations, an end to [...] the double punishment of non-citizens, [...] and fourth we demand status for all,” SAB member Rosalind Wong explained to The Daily.
“[We demand] comprehensive regularization [of migrants without status] and the right to everything a status gives to a person: access to health, access to education, access to full rights, being able to call the police in safety and seek out other resources in full dignity.”
In an address to the crowd, SAB organizer Malek Yalaoui spoke against federal policies such as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which provides no path to permanent residency, and the detention of migrants during the immigration and refugee process.
“Between 9,000 and 15,000 migrants and immigrants, including children, are detained in this country right now for months [and] even years on administrative grounds, without being given any charges,” Yalaoui said.
The demonstration briefly veered off its planned route and paused in front of the Montreal office of Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard to bring attention to Quebec’s policies regarding access to education for children of migrants without status.
“Quebec [is] a shameful exception,” organizer Kama told the crowd in French. “In the United States, in Western Europe – in France, for example – children without papers can [access] free primary and secondary education, but it is not the case here in Quebec.”
Magaly, a member of the Healthcare for All committee at SAB, noted the difficulties that migrants face in accessing healthcare.
“There is a huge number of ways to exclude, whether through the waiting period – when you’re a newly arrived immigrant, during the first three months you don’t have access to healthcare – [or with] all the cuts to programs for refugees at the federal level [...],” Magaly said in French in an interview with The Daily. “People find themselves having to pay for their health services, which is often impossible – just to give birth, for example, it’s $10,000.”
The demonstration proceeded peacefully and in a festive atmosphere. It ended in a picnic at Phillips Square at around 4 p.m., two hours after it began.
While the Status For All march is an annual occurrence, this year marks the first time that it was accompanied by a two-week series of workshops, demonstrations, and social events. According to Wong, this was done to build momentum and shed light on the work done by migrant justice groups throughout the year.
“It’s one event in the year, and we organize a lot to get it happening, but the mobilizing continues all throughout the year,” Wong said. “There are people, communities mobilizing to support one another, to get access to education, to get access to health, to fight to go to school, to [...] organize so that women who are facing [...] interpersonal violence can find shelter without being worried about not having status, [without] being asked for their proofs of residency or [...] for their social insurance numbers at a food bank.”
“It’s the first time we actually decided to do a festival for two weeks rather than just organize all our efforts into the march, so organizing is getting bigger [...],” added Wong. “As laws get more repressive, people have no choice but to organize to survive.”