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Coronavirus: Migrant workers, foreign students across Canada calling for aid

Global News logo Global News 2020-04-17 Darrian Matassa-Fung
Benny Dayal wearing glasses and looking at the camera: The Migrant Rights Network hosted a online conference, where undocumented workers and foreign students shared their personal struggles. © Global News The Migrant Rights Network hosted a online conference, where undocumented workers and foreign students shared their personal struggles.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, undocumented and migrant workers and foreign students from across Canada spoke out Thursday.

They were calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to "fill the gaps" that exclude them from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

"The last month, we reached out to the federal government to propose a very simple solution,” said Syed Hussan, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change’s executive director.

 “To use something called an individual tax number, to get people income support."

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The Migrant Rights Network hosted the online conference, where undocumented workers and foreign students shared their personal struggles.

"As a result of losing my job and also not qualifying for support because my SIN is expired, I have no idea how I’m going to pay for rent and food," said Alina Przybyl, a foreign student.

Przybyl is a Polish student at Toronto's George Brown College.

She applied for a renewal of her study permit three months ago, and is still waiting for it. Her social insurance number renewal will take an additional three months.

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As a valid SIN is needed to access the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, these undocumented migrant workers and students are stuck.

When work or study permits expire, so do the social insurance numbers.

Many migrant workers do not have a social insurance number to begin with.

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This is the reality many of us are facing, we have no SIN,” said Cesar Paredes, an undocumented migrant worker from Mexico.

“We have a kid on the way, with no income and no help whatsoever.”

The federal and provincial governments have called for people to stay at home to flatten the curve, however, for these workers with no financial support, that is not an option.

"I cannot stay home, I have no support. I need to hustle every day to get some work done for me and my wife," said Paredes.

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The Migrants Rights Network along with nearly 40 organizations, are calling for five changes to help these workers:

Ensure workers without Social Insurance Numbers have access to Canada Emergency Response Benefit through the provision of accessible Individual Tax Numbers

Extend access to C.E.R.B. for those whose SIN has expired.

Seasonal Temporary Foreign Workers and Seasonal Agricultural Workers should have access to income supports for delays in contracts, both inside and outside the country.

Ensure that migrant workers who are forced to leave jobs or those that aren't starting contracts are not deemed to have "quit voluntarily" and receive income supports.

Extend income supports to migrant and undocumented workers who did not earn at least $5,000 in the previous 12 months.

“The worst horror is these people, our families, our friends, are suffering, simply because they don't have a valid SIN number," said Hussan.

According to the network, over half a million people in Canada are undocumented, without social insurance numbers, and many have lost income during COVID-19 outbreak.

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