TORONTO - By any standard, the Undocumented Workers’ Council (UWC) press conference was well attended.
Six different language groups – some of them by more than one outlet - represented by electronic (Radio/TV) and print media made their way to Bento’s Auto Service on Dundas St. to listen to four presenters make a case for immediate action on “Visa overstays”, otherwise referred to as undocumented workers.
The UWC, headed by Manuel Alexandre and Joe Pimentel, and, supported by Bento Sao Jose and Tony Letra, along with a team of like-minded individuals from all political parties, has been advancing this file for three and half years - with two different governments.
The Departments of Immigration and [formerly] Human Resources have created a labour market mess over the years that has resulted in the emergence of an underground, labour, economy serviced by about one million “irregular” workers, according to one Department of Human Resources spokesperson who spoke on condition of anonymity.
So, what prompted this press conference, now?
Ironically, one reason was a “throw away line” by the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a town hall meeting.
He equated the resettlement of an ISIS fighter (Jihadi Jack) in Canada with the integration process of Greeks, Italians and Portuguese.
It was the proverbial “straw” (that broke the camel’s back). The latter groups have been guilty of wanting to work and build up our country.
Their friends and relatives are seen to be disadvantaged by Canada’s Immigration system.
Jihadi Jack represents a rejection of “Canadian values” and the espousal of a militant, inimical culture whose goal is the elimination of all we hold dear.
A second reason is the urgency prompted by the seeming rejection of a Pilot Project for “regularization” which the current Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, and his Caucus colleagues had been quietly encouraging or actively promoting.
His officials are now removing people who had participated in the program.
When contacted by the Corriere, several offices of MPs who are, or have been, part of a Caucus “study group” that was perceived to be promoting the Pilot Project, denied that such a program exists.
The deportations will proceed without their or the Minister’s intervention.
The Federal Minister is running the risk of losing support provincially as colleagues like MPP Christina Martins openly criticizes his intransigence and call for Amnesty for undocumented workers.
Hussen and his Cabinet appear to prefer the Donald Trump approach: send them back.
And yet, the Press Conference was convened to offer solutions rather than criticism.
Intervenors pointed out that Canada has been down this road in the recent past.
In the ’70ies, employers could sponsor potential employees with “an Intent to Hire” statement.
In 1982, Churches and other community groups were used to land and integrate Polish refugees. In 1989, a solution was found to regularize Portuguese construction workers.
In 2005, an Agreement was signed with Unions and Employers groups to establish a path to Permanent Residency for “overstays” gainfully employed and who could clear security.
Alexandre, Sao Jose, Letra, Pimentel and the UWC are taking their arguments directly to the Minister’s office in a public demonstration scheduled for 2:00 PM, tomorrow, in an effort to convince the Minister that political will can solve any problem.
“How is it that in Brampton one does not need to speak English to drive a cab, but a carpenter needs to have level 5 English skills to drive a nail into a plank of wood,” asks Alexandre.