Waiting for times to change

Waiting for times to change
Waiting for times to change

It is with immigration policies today as with policies concerning women in another era: we decided without them what was “good” for them and we could say anything about them.

Posted at 6:00 a.m.

This very correct observation is that of François Crépeau, professor of public international law at McGill University, who has been interested in these questions for nearly 40 years.

An example of “anything”? While there is nothing criminal about seeking asylum or being an unstated migrant worker, states have criminalized irregular migration in their rhetoric, says former UN special rapporteur on human rights migrant man.

Such speeches are possible because those principally concerned have no say. “As migrants do not vote, they cannot punish or reward politicians. So politicians can say anything about them. And there’s no pushback from the citizens. »

Results ? “In most countries, immigration policies are made like policies for women 80 years ago,” explains Mr. Crépeau. It was done by committees of men who had no idea what they were doing and didn’t know what they were talking about! »

Fortunately, times are changing. Very slowly, but still… Today, if a politician makes a sexist remark, it’s a stain on his record that may follow him. Same thing for a homophobic remark. Because there have been struggles for women’s rights. Because there have been struggles for LGBTQ+ rights…

But migrants in very precarious situations are not in a position to fight for their rights. For fear of being expelled, they do not complain even when they are exploited. In survival mode, they just wait for it to pass. “And it suits the employers that these people fulfill this economic function. »

The situation is not unique to Canada. Everywhere in the world, there is a sub-proletariat of migrants without papers or with very precarious statuses who are exploited, recalls François Crépeau.

As I mentioned on Sunday, the solution is neither to close the door to migrants on Roxham Road nor to turn a blind eye to their exploitation.

In the short term, we must welcome these asylum seekers with dignity. Invest in reception, social housing and francization in order to allow these people to contribute to society as quickly as possible – without being exploited, it goes without saying.

Because if only from an economic point of view, this is a profitable investment for companies.

In the long term, the solution lies in the Global Compact on Migration – the first comprehensive UN agreement with a common approach to international migration in all its dimensions. The pact, ratified at the end of 2018, aims in particular to facilitate mobility and to apply labor law to all people, regardless of their migratory status.

François Crépeau, who himself took part in the first phase of its development, wants the Global Compact to be like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. beginning of a great cultural revolution. We are still in the process, 75 years later, of developing this Universal Declaration. The metoo movement on sexual harassment, for example, is also a development of the Universal Declaration on Equality, Dignity…”

Just as it took time for “human” rights to truly include women’s rights, it will also take time for them to truly include those of migrants.

“It will happen. But it will happen over several generations. »


Many readers have written to me following my column on Sunday to ask me more concretely what they can do to help asylum seekers. Many were inspired by the initiative of Danièle, this retired nurse from Brossard who takes under her wing families of newcomers met through Refugee Claimant Donations Montreal – a Facebook group that allows people to be matched donate with asylum seekers in need.

Besides this group, another good starting point is the Collectif Bienvenue, born in Montreal in 2017 from a citizen initiative similar to that of Danièle when more than 25,000 people arrived in Quebec in search of refuge. Volunteers had mobilized to help families seeking asylum, often reduced to sleeping on the floor, to furnish themselves.

A year later, these individual initiatives have turned into a wonderful collective project: an NPO whose main mission is to mobilize the Montreal community in order to provide immediate assistance to the most vulnerable asylum seekers.

In five years, the Collectif Bienvenue has managed to support more than 8,000 people, including 4,500 children and 600 pregnant women. Every week, he is able to help a dozen families settle.

“We focus on families in very precarious situations,” Melissa Claisse, spokesperson for Collectif Bienvenue, told me. But due to a lack of “arms” and sufficient resources, we are unable to respond to all requests for help.

These days, the organization, which has just launched its annual fundraising campaign, particularly needs volunteers with “good arms” to board its truck and deliver and pick up furniture. But citizens with “small arms” and a big heart are of course also welcome.

The article is in French

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