Editorial: Immigration, Reformation and Regularization: We stand with Mamadou Konaté

The provincial and federal governments must be held accountable for the deportation of migrant workers. Courtesy Carl Bindman.

In 2011, Côte d'Ivoire experienced its second civil war of the century. Fleeing for his personal safety, Mamadou Konaté left the country and arrived in Canada in 2016.

For the past six years, Konaté contributed immensely to Canadian society, working in farms, factories, school boards and medical triage centers. During the height of COVID-19, he worked as an essential worker, cleaning rooms for those directly in contact with patients in long-term care facilities.

As a result, Konaté contracted COVID-19 but went back to work immediately upon recovery

To thank him for his tireless involvement, the federal government not only denied him access to the Guardian Angel regularization program but rescheduled his deportation for Sept. 30, 2022.

Because he did not directly work with patients the way nurses and doctors do, Konaté’s physical proximity was not enough to make him eligible for the program.

Konaté’s case has been followed for multiple years by various humanitarian organizations and media outlets; his first deportation date scheduled for Nov. 19, 2021, was changed after an Immigration and Refugee Board decision regarding his status was appealed. 

Similar to thousands of other migrants, Konaté has been refused permanent residency due to his political activity in Côte d'Ivoire almost 10 years ago. He was rejected from the Guardian Angel program, which was initiated to provide status to asylum claimants working in the healthcare sector. However, the program had unusual and difficult stipulations that actively excluded most low-wage workers.

In Canada right now, there are 1.2 million documented migrants who are either working and/or studying, many as refugee claimants. There are also 500,000 undocumented migrants, a growing number as the claims of many documented migrants are rejected or their permits expire. This leaves almost 2 million people in the country with no determination on whether they will be able to stay.

It’s time for both the federal and provincial governments to stick to their words and expand initiatives that would regularize and grant permanent residency status to all migrants, without discrimination. 

Without status, workers are often mistreated, exploited, intimidated and abused; often unable to exercise their rights or attain equal access to services such as healthcare. Many live in fear as their physical, mental and material well-being are threatened by job insecurity, evictions and even detentions and deportations.

The continuous exploitation and abandonment of migrant workers like Mamadou Konaté must cease.

As Quebec enters its 43rd provincial election, conversations around migrants are haunted by racism, xenophobia, ethnonationalism and the denial of systemic racism.

While few resolutions have been made, the current electoral promises are not enough—migrant workers need status now!

Almost 500 organizations across the country are calling for a comprehensive, inclusive and accessible regularization program that addresses the archaic, colonial and discriminatory system that is currently in place.

The Link stands with this call, with Mamadou Konaté and with providing equal status, rights and privileges to all those without permanent residency status in Canada.

We invite everyone to join the vigil on Thursday, Sept. 22, at 200 Boulevard René-Lévesque at 10 a.m. to demand a stop to the deportation of Mamadou Konaté.