Toronto prime destination for undocumented workers, committee told
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, January 31, 2013 7:47PM EST
TORONTO -- A law professor says Toronto has the highest number of undocumented workers in Canada.
Audrey Macklin of the University of Toronto says temporary immigration, especially for employment purposes, can often lead to undocumented workers.
Macklin also says the most-populous city in the country is a good place to hide.
She told Toronto's Community Development and Recreation Committee on Thursday that the "Four In/Four Out" rule imposed by the federal government in April 2011 will lead to a dramatic rise in the number of undocumented workers by April 2015.
The rule puts a four-year limit on temporary work permits, after which the worker must leave the country or, as many do, live under the radar illegally.
Macklin says it's too early to know the number of workers who will be affected by this rule.
However, she says other countries with similar guest worker policies have seen a significant increase in undocumented workers.
"It's a law that manufactures illegality," she said. "They are turned into illegals."
The committee also heard the story of Wilson Gutierrez, who came to Canada from Honduras over a year ago on a closed work permit, meaning he was only allowed to stay in Canada if he worked for one specific employer.
Gutierrez is not working for that employer anymore, but has been in Toronto looking for a job for the past four months.
Tzazna Miranda Leal, who volunteers with Justice for Migrants, a Toronto-based grassroots organization, translated his story.
"I had a friend who worked here, so he told me to come to Toronto, thinking I could find a job here," he said.
Life in Canada as an unemployed migrant worker is difficult, said Gutierrez, who has been living with friends and changing homes since his arrival.
"I don't want to go back to my home country, it's really difficult to get a job there," said Gutierrez. "If I go back, there is nothing for me."
The discussion focused on the fears undocumented workers have about accessing government services such as health care, education and police, because discovery of their undocumented worker status could lead to deportation.
The committee passed a series of motions to further integrate undocumented workers into the community.
Motions included a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, meaning no one would be asked about their immigration status when accessing city resources and services such as housing, and education and schooling for children.
Coun. Ana Bailao called the motions a matter of not taking advantage of undocumented workers, who contribute to the city's economy regardless of their status.
"It's a matter of safety for everybody. It's a matter of justice and human rights," she said.