TORONTO - The Government of Portugal yesterday moved to enact legislation designed to “regularize illegal residents” according to Reuters and AFN news. As of yesterday, all migrants and asylum seekers with pending residency applications have been granted citizenship rights by the government led by socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa. According to a Reuters report, Claudia Veloso, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, justified the measure by saying that “people should not be deprived of their rights to health and public service just because their application has not yet been processed”. Especially when they have been contributing to health and security services during their contested residency.
What a refreshing concept. It is one that seems to have escaped the imagination of policy makers at Refugee and Immigration Canada and the offices of their Ministers.
No, we are not picking on any one of them in particular. Jason Kenney, for example refused to do anything about the “irregular”, “undocumented workers” for years. He made exceptions for convicted felons like Conrad Black but would engage Canadian Border Services Agency in removal activities when it came to Portuguese construction workers. His successor, Chris Alexander was just as bad.
Neither of them would exercise the means in their “Ministerial toolkit”, particularly their “discretion” and “substitutive evaluation” to normalize the status of people who are here, are needed and already integrated. They insisted on the language imperative, even if their job requirements and their employers did not see a need.
Three subsequent Minsters, different Parties, same policy. The focus shifted from Immigration to Refugee integration. John McCallum attempted to regularize the undocumented in a limited pilot project environment. Upon his transfer to China, his replacement Ahmed Hussein a former refugee, cancelled whatever initiatives were in place.
In fact, during his tenure, immigration from Portugal, Italy, Poland and other traditional European areas of emigration to Canada came to a virtual standstill in favour of geographic sources originating in Africa and in Asia. He and his colleagues were contested by an organization called the Undocumented Workers Committee whose advocacy dated from the last years of the Chretien administration. To no avail.
Hussein’s replacement, Marco Mendicino, child of immigrants, after some early promise, has decided for the status quo.
Now Portugal, a country whose population base is only 28% that of Canada - 10, 561. 614 as of the last census – and with a GDP of USD 217.6 million is showing Canada how it is done. Ms. Veloso said, “in these exceptional times, the rights of migrants must be guaranteed”. That should include access to unemployment and pension-related benefits.
Portugal has been a source country for thousands of undocumented workers for the construction and residential services industry. Those “irregular Canadians” are now at economic risk.
In terms of the Covi-19 health risk, as of yesterday, 6, 406 had been confirmed positive in Portugal – 0.0006% of the population. In Canada, 6,320 – 0.00017% of 37,000,000 people – evidenced the contagion.
Portugal’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Eduardo Cabrita explained to Reuters that "it is a duty of a society of solidarity in times of crisis to ensure that migrant citizens have access to health and social security.”
Minister Mendicino, is Canada one of those societies? Is there a will?
TO READ PREVIOUS COMMENTS: https://www.corriere.ca/english-articles