Who Are Non-Status People?
There are approximately 200,000 people residing in Canada without official status; most of them tend to go to Toronto or other major cities simply because there are better opportunities for them there.
Most of these ‘non-status’ immigrants are labelled with this marginalizing tag because they do not qualify under the country’s current immigration point system; which in truth tends to favour people who have large amounts of capital.
The growing global inequality and the rising reality of an economic crisis—especially after Covid and the worldwide consequences caused by the war between Russia and Ukraine—will unfortunately inevitably make the already dire situation of these individuals even worse. In addition to this, these immigrants have themselves been victims of violence and extreme poverty and have left their homes to look for shelter, only to be rejected due to the narrow perception of what it means to be a ‘legitimate’ refugee in the eyes of the Canadian state.
A Case Study: Veron, One Non-Status Woman’s Story
Veron is a woman originally from Grenada, who left her homeland in fear for her life, after receiving verbal and physical threats from a man living in the city in which she resided. Unfortunately, it was quite known for a while that violence against women was relatively suppressed and not taken seriously by officials in the Caribbean, and there was a huge lack of women’s shelters or other facilities that would be an option for a woman in her situation. When arriving in Toronto with her one-year-old son in 1998, Veron stayed with her sister who had been granted refugee status in Canada. Veron then filed a refugee claim herself in 1999, but her claim was denied, and so for her safety and her son’s well-being, she decided to stay in Canada without status.
She eventually had two other children and raised all of them on her own, supporting them independently by working two jobs. When it came to registering her older son for school she also had found issues even though the school board policy states that all children should be able to go to school regardless of immigration status.
In 2004, she had an incident where she experienced domestic violence by a male acquaintance, and after reporting this to the police, the officer in charge decided to report Veron to Immigration, which led to her being forced to surrender her passport and prepare for deportation. Her last resort at this point was to submit a humanitarian and compassionate claim for landed status to Immigration Canada, which she did with the help of some Toronto activists, whilst at the same time having to keep working and provide for her children.
Unfortunately, this sort of plea has a very narrow success rate, and deportation can happen even before a conclusion is even reached; and this is what happened to Veron. She was told she’d be deported and was going to be forced to leave her two Canadian-born children in foster care and return to Grenada where she and her son would have to live in abject poverty and potentially extreme danger from the individual in Grenada who threatened Veron’s life.
Two days before she was supposed to be deported, Veron received admission to her plea so she could stay in Canada; but she still had no working permit or health coverage, and this experience in itself caused her to live in constant fear and stress, unable to access essential services that herself and her whole family needed.
Why Should a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy Concern Me as a Union Member?
The point of unions is to defend workers who are powerless and weak against injustices such as racism, poverty, and discrimination. It was because of worker’s unions, and before that, individual workers speaking out, that we live in a society with the kinds of programs and social services we enjoy today; such as minimum wage, universal healthcare, pension plans, and public education.
Workers play an integral role in protecting the privacy and dignity of the most vulnerable members of our community. One current example of this is Unifor, a union organization that advocates for and defends the economic rights of working people. Thanks to Unifor, Ontario casino worker’s unions have had great success in 2022, as they’ve managed to secure a pay rise along with several other considerable benefit improvements. This struggle was not an easy one and it took time but in the end, the results unraveled and there was a domino effect with many other casino workers from several casinos, including Casino Woodbine, and even other Ontario online casinos, joining the fight, especially after such an outcome.
There was a time in Canada’s history, under ex-Ontario premier Mike Harris, when the social service workers resisted the government’s attempt to enforce mandatory drug testing of social assistance. The plight at the time was under the movement of the ‘Test the Water, NOT the Poor!’ campaign and this same notion is parallel with the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADA) campaign, whose premise is essentially protecting privacy and dignity of non-status residents living and working in our community.
Will Complying With This Policy Put My Career in Danger?
Once a DADA immigration policy is implemented by the Toronto City Council, all city employees will be protected by this policy. It will no longer be a job requirement to request or report immigration status from city residents who wish to make use of city services, and this should have been like this for a while: enforcement of provincial and federal immigration policies should not be downloaded onto municipal workers. To criminalize the poor and the vulnerable is a corrupted misuse of the city funds!
What You Can Do for the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Campaign?
This is the right question to ask, and there are numerous things you can do as an individual to get involved in the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell campaign.
Firstly, you can write to your city councillor expressing your support for the campaign and requesting theirs, utilizing your right to political expression and making it known to people who have the power to amend the situation.
Secondly, you can talk to your friends and neighbours and make the case for why you believe the campaign is important and why they should get involved as well.
Thirdly, bringing up the campaign to your local union, community, faith group, or whatever it may be, and raising the issue that in the interest of the community at large, the more groups behind this, the more likely there will be effective change.
What Your Union Can Do for the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Campaign
We must not let the idea become overwhelming, because, in reality, it is simple and very real. This is a humanitarian cause, that would assist the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, simply by putting this policy into effect with empathy and reasonableness.
This is the point that we want to make and with having unions support the campaign, the immediacy of the issue in question becomes more of a priority. We suggest that you submit a motion to your local organization to consider the topic at your next local meeting for instance.
Again, motions do not have to be complex; all you need to say is that you want your local groups to support the campaign, and if there is a need for clarification you can always ask to have a member from the DADT present, simply by requesting one via email. The address for the request is [email protected], or [email protected].
What You Can Do in Your Workplace for DADT?
Although this might feel redundant before the implementation, the workplace is a great place to start, since this is where the DADT will be most effective once it is successfully admitted. People will have a lot of questions once this change happens—naturally because the system has functioned differently for a while now—and so you can be the one who gets people informed by obtaining data, newsletters, and leaflets from anyone involved with the DADT campaign.
You can then act as a resource person for your workplace. While talking to management can be (and usually is) a troubling experience, you can tell them about DADT and see if they are willing to support it.
Here are some further suggestions:
You can submit a motion to your local union, organization, hobby, or faith group to endorse the campaign at your next meeting.
You can always contact us to invite members of the DADT to speak to your peers or at these local meetings.
You can talk to people and let them know the importance of this and how easy but extremely useful it is for them to become a part of it.
Encourage your union to donate money, resources, and whatever it can provide to help the campaign; maybe even suggest fundraising events.
As always, get informed! If you want to be honest and convincing, you have to know what is happening and where this is heading.
Last but not least, let your city councillor know that you are behind this, and have people you know who join in do the same. The many individual voices of the people are no longer individual once they are all fighting for the same thing, and suddenly it becomes a communal struggle.