During the election campaign that has just ended, many enormities have been said on the issue of immigration.
In addition to the distressing remarks made by Jean Boulet and François Legault himself, namely that the majority of immigrants do not integrate and that it would be suicidal to welcome more than 50,000, we have witnessed a real battle of the numbers on the reception capacity of Quebec.
It was quite pitiful to see immigrants exploited in this way by the various political parties. Because beyond the figures and false speeches, there are real people. And that, let's face it, it is often embarrassing to see the fate reserved for them after their arrival in Quebec.
As a human rights organization that accompanies people struggling with financial difficulties, we take the floor today to denounce the conditions under which, collectively, we accept to leave (too) many immigrants.
When numbers hide people…
We could tell you plenty of stories. Obviously, immigrants are not a homogeneous group. The routes are diverse. The motivations too. Great stories, there are many. However, we should not forget the reality experienced by the most precarious among them. And there are more of them than you think.
This is the case, for example, of Maria* who has been living in Quebec since 2020. Having protected person status, she has been waiting for her social insurance number for more than a year. Without this precious number, she cannot receive family allowances for her two young children aged 2.5 and a few months.
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As she cannot work, it is her spouse (a part-time worker with a precarious status) who somehow provides for the needs of the family. Due to a late rent (their income is clearly insufficient), she fears ending up on the street. She continues to breastfeed her two-year-old because she often has nothing to put on the table. Can you imagine the level of stress and distress she experiences every day? How can we, as a society, grant the status of protected person to someone and at the same time let them live in conditions of extreme precariousness?
Moustafa*, meanwhile, filed a humanitarian application. Due to his immigration status, his medications are not covered by the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec. However, suffering from kidney problems (he does dialysis three times a week) and heart problems, he risks dying every day if he cannot afford the drugs, which cost him $300 a month. So isn't solidarity one of the precious Quebec values so dear to the Coalition Avenir Québec?
These are only two recent cases, and we could easily extend this list as these kinds of situations is familiar.
For a society that excludes no one
Each year, we receive tens of thousands of people in Quebec who contribute, each in their own way, to the development and improvement of our society. Several sectors of activity depend on this workforce to operate. Despite this, too often, we let them down. It's “find yourself” in the administrative maze and “take out your wallet”, because the immigration process is extremely expensive. How many “guardian angels”, for example, have risked their lives during the pandemic in hospitals and long-term care centers only to be denied asylum?
François Legault repeats to anyone who will listen that Quebec is not racist. We ask him to demonstrate this by allowing each person to live in decent and dignified conditions. The Government of Quebec continues to ask Ottawa for more power in the choice of its immigrants. Instead, he should push for the process to be accelerated and more inclusive. François Legault must stop hiding behind the federal government to justify his inaction. These people live in Quebec. It is his responsibility to ensure that immigrants (with or without status) have access to the same services and programs and are granted the same rights as the general population of Quebec.
* fictitious names
Émilie Laurin-Dansereau, budget advisor at ACEF du North of Montreal
Katrine Johns has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Gal Post, Katrine Johns worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my firstname.lastname@example.org 1-800-268-7128