Marcia, a blind, undocumented woman, learned yesterday that she would finally receive help from the Montreal Association for the Blind. Marcia has been trying to access the rehabilitation services she needs since she lost her sight in December 2015. She was repeatedly refused because of her immigration status. She finally held a press conference last week with the support of community organizations.
“I am feeling happy. These are services that I really need to function: losing my sight is still very new and scary. I don’t know how to do much, all my life I have my eyes to help me. Right now, I am just barely surviving; inside my apartment I can function a little bit because it is a small space, but outside of my apartment I can’t function, not at all, without someone beside me. I really need some training. But it wasn’t good for them to take so long to respond. And they wouldn’t have responded; they weren’t considering to help me until I get my immigration straightened out. That wasn’t very cool. I hope this will open doors for others too,” says Marcia, an active member of the Non-Status Women’s Collective of Montreal. Marcia has lived in Montreal for 35 years and worked as a nanny, housekeeper, and caregiver for the elderly.
In a brief letter, Marcia was informed, “We wish to inform you of the admissibility of yourself … We inform you that the probable start of services at the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre will be in July 2017.” The letter, received on June 1st, reverses a December 2016 letter which stated, “… specialized rehabilitation services cannot be offered until you have valid status. Therefor we wish to inform you that you have been refused services from the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre.”
After Montreal passed a Sanctuary City motion in February 2017, sixty healthcare workers and community organizations co-signed a letter insisting Marcia receive services. MAB MacKay again refused. A petition was launched and quickly gained the support of hundreds of organizations and individuals. On 24 May, Marcia held a press conference to urge the organization to adopt a policy of access for undocumented Montreal residents.
“Marcia’s experience is similar to hundreds of thousands of other undocumented migrant workers. Working in extremely exploitative conditions, they are unable to access healthcare, education, adequate housing … They live in poverty, precarity and constant fear – all while subsidizing the life-style of the wealthy,” adds Viviana Medina, a community organizer with the Immigrant Workers Centre.
Marcia is not stopping her campaign. She is now seeking access to the STM’s para-transit service which is supposed to provide access to public transportation for people with disabilities. “Public transportation is very important for me, because i can’t afford a taxi and someone has to go with me each time. Right now I am dependent on my support group, this will take some stress off them. I want to be treated like everyone else; and I should. I gave so much and I ended up getting nothing. If I had … maybe my eyes could have been saved. I have lived too long in fear and am still living it. But if Denis Coderre says Montreal is a sanctuary city, he should mean it. People are not going to forget about it, they are going to make it happen,” she added.
“If undocumented communities continue to have to fight for even the most essential services and if the Montreal police continue to collaborate with the Canadian Border Services Agency, how can Coderre possibly call Montreal a Sanctuary City? We demand that Coderre implement measures that will actually change the lives of undocumented people living in Montreal,” says Rosalind Wong, a community organizer with Solidarity Across Borders.
Timeline of Marcia’s fight for access: http://www.
– Coderre’s Sanctuary City Motion: https://mairedemontreal.ca/
– Public Statement by Solidarity Across Borders about Coderre’s Sanctuary City Motion: www.solidarityacrossborders.
– Montreal Association for the Blind: www.mabmackay.ca
* An alternate name is being used for her security.