In the United Kingdom, every child – regardless of status – must attend school. The underlying criteria is that they are children.
In Canada, the case is different.
Children are only able to go to school based on the immigration status of their parents. Like thousands of others in Canada, we receive a biweekly newsletter from Migrants Watch. The content of the newsletter prompted this write-up and much consternation of what Canada looks like today for children of undocumented workers.
These children are around us.
In some cases, they are our neighbour’s children.
They watch us take our children to school. They watch us pack their lunch bags. They watch us do home work with our children. They watch our fancy lives carry on uninterruptedly whilst they remain on the same spot.
Possibly for years, for some.
They are children. But invisbile. Children, Canada has said No too! Children whose tears mean nothing because they are undocumented. But if education is a universal right, why cant these children attend school?
Is there anything the Canada can do?
Here is the newsletter sent by Migrants rights today with the headline 1000 educators for status for all.
“Canada promises universal educations, but tens of thousands of undocumented children cannot go to school”.
“Raquel, whose family lost status when she was in high school in Montreal, explained the pain and uncertainty she went through: “I was very worried about my future. My strong desire to study was crushed by a system rich in education but poor in empathy.”
“Even children of parents with work and study permits are turned away. Right now, in New Brunswick, 53 school children have been unable to enroll despite speaking out since September .”
“Denying education based on your or your parent’s citizenship status is discriminatory. One of the signatories of a letter written by Migrants Rights, Toronto’s York University professor Dr. Cynthia Wright explained, “Without access to education, your life is altered forever, and the entire society suffers. An inclusive regularization that leaves no one behind is an essential means to ensure access to education across the country.”
“Rosalind Wong, a Montreal elementary and special education teacher, added: “When you are going to school, but you’re afraid of deportation, you can’t get healthcare, and your parents are trying to survive every day, it is incredibly hard to study; this is the reality of many precarious status students. Children deserve to grow into healthy adults, requiring a regularization program without delay.”
“Migrants on study permits who can attend schools are faced with impossible fees. Tuition fees for international students increased 8-fold between 2006-07 to 2020-21. Many thousands are pushed into low-paying, difficult and dangerous jobs to make ends meet”.
“Educators are seeing the crisis and exclusion and speaking up. In their letter today, they write, “education not only provides the training and skill sets for securing livelihood but serves as a key site for fostering critical inquiry, social connections and interpersonal skills” and call on the federal government to ”regularize all undocumented people and ensure permanent resident status for all 1.7 million migrants”. They also call on the provincial government to ensure free, universal education”.
Migrants Rights is asking for status for all undocumented immigrants.