Immigrant Workers Centre demand financial compensation for workers, end to police harassment

Press release wants the promise of a sanctuary city to be kept

The Immigrant Workers Centre has fought for the rights of undocumented workers and has issued demands to Valérie Plante and François Legault. Photo Alexandre Denis

The Immigrant Workers Centre has issued four crucial demands in a press release to both the provincial and municipal governments on Tuesday, Jan. 26, surrounding the mistreatment of undocumented essential workers and other workers in “precarious situations.”

Since the beginning of the government-mandated curfew across Quebec, the Montreal-based immigrant workers' rights group has outlined many ways that those required to work past the 8 p.m. curfew have faced police harassment. 

The four demands are as follows:

1. A don't ask, don't tell policy for workers without status.

2. Acceptance of the essential employment certificate at face value by police during curfew.

3. Distribution of municipal IDs for all Montreal residents that would permit workers without status to legally identify themselves without disclosing their immigration status.

4. That the Quebec government issue financial compensation for all workers regardless of their status who have lost income due to the curfew.

“The SPVM [Service de police de la Ville de Montréal] is a danger for non-status workers who are working at nighttime, particularly,” said IWC board member Stefan Christoff. “Within the context of the curfew, they have the power to ask for people’s identity cards. Non-status workers are facing even more danger than before because if they are carded and they don’t have papers, they’re in trouble.”

In 2017, Montreal was declared a sanctuary city, meaning it would protect those without status from deportation. However, that does not prevent deportations from occurring in Montreal. 

“Even before the curfew workers with precarious immigration status were afraid of being interrogated by police in public space. We have repeatedly asked the government and the SPVM for real protection of non-status migrants, by applying the policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” outlined IWC community organizer Viviana Carole Medina in the press release. “This policy would prevent police from asking for their immigration status and informing the Canada Border Service Agency.”

While the sanctuary city status means the CBSA does not work in conjunction with the police, deportations still occur for those who are in police custody. The IWC also demands that the aforementioned municipal IDs be taken at face value and act as fully acceptable forms of ID.

“This recent move by the municipal government to give the SPVM powers to card people illustrates the urgency of making that a sanctuary city also means that everyone is equal,” said Christoff. “The reality of having non-status people in the city without papers means that we are not equal.”

The release goes on to pinpoint that most essential workers who are needed to stay out past curfew are not salaried, but paid hourly and often do not have the privilege of working from home. It elaborated how it is unacceptable that the people taking the highest health risk to keep the economy going are losing income without any government financial compensation or even acknowledgment. 

This is where their fourth demand comes into play. The IWC called for the provincial government to issue an emergency income supplement for workers who had their hours cut due to the curfew “for the full amount of income lost.”

Neither the municipal nor the provincial government have commented on the IWC’s demands as of yet.