We are a committee of Solidarity Across Borders, formed in 2011. We believe that access to food is a fundamental part of dignity and self-determination for undocumented migrants and all those who face poverty and precarity. We believe that the practice of denying services to people, including at food banks, is deeply discriminatory.
Part of the struggle to break down borders within our city is to ensure that people have access to services without fear. Food services should be accessible for all Montrealers, regardless of immigration status. In building a Solidarity City, we are opposing fear, isolation, precarity, and division.
In addition to working to ensure food banks are accessible to all, we also work to challenge the systems that create the very inequities that necessitate the need for food banks in the first place.
We demand access to healthy food for everyone regardless of immigration status!
Barriers to food access
Currently in Montréal, upwards of 40,000 city residents without status or with precarious status face substantial barriers to accessing services that are essential for individual and community health and safety. One of these services is emergency food aid.
While urban hunger is intimately tied to poverty and is a major issue in the city of Montréal, undocumented Montréalers face additional barriers in accessing food services that other residents do not, such as not being able to provide government-issued ID, income documents, and address verification, as well as language barriers. Emergency food aid providers often lack adequate information regarding immigration and are not structured in a way that takes non-status Montréalers into account.
Two of the most tangible barriers that exist within the food distribution sector are the requirement of identification documents to access the service (which undocumented or precarious status individuals generally do not have) and the fear of one’s immigration status being revealed and reported to authorities. Limited time and mobility due to precarious living conditions are certainly significant barriers as well.
To raise awareness of these barriers and to collaborate in building a Solidarity City, we are creating a series of popular education workshops to present to organizations in Montréal’s food service sector. In giving these workshops we hope to have groups adopt two main principles: (1) that information regarding immigration status is never a requirement for accessing food aid, and that no form of ID is asked for and (2) that spaces of food aid provision be safe and accessible to all by implementing a non-collaboration policy with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
We are also carrying out a mapping project of food service organizations to deepen our understanding of the city’s food system as well as to have a more visible idea of what (in)accessibility looks like (with a focus on immigration status) by connecting with local organizations and inquiring about access requirements.
Solidarity not charity
While pop ed workshops are a first step, an overarching part of our strategy is encouraging movement towards a solidarity model of food autonomy rather than a charity model. This is motivated by the belief that access to healthy food for all requires striving for food models that enable and empower all individuals and challenge the structural barriers that inhibit access as well as marginalize and displace community-based food systems.
Charity models of food service create and perpetuate a dichotomous and disempowering relationship of service-user and service-provider. We therefore hope to encourage a solidarity model based on horizontal exchange rather than vertical imposition, a model of mutual aid and support which empowers those directly affected by food insecurity and systemic racism.
Some examples of this solidarity include: collective kitchens that promote greater autonomy by enabling individuals to create a community of mutual support and self-management rather than a relationship of reliance upon state or market forces; community dinners that bring people together and connect neighbourhood groups to create communal spaces which serve multiple needs and link multiple struggles; collective buying or community supported agriculture initiatives that increase economic accessibility; etc. These are just a few of the models already being carried out by groups in Montréal that can break isolation and fear as well as strengthen community ties.
Linking struggles: food access and migrant justice
The intersections of migrant justice and food justice do not stop at points of access such as food banks. Every year, Canada admits more migrants under temporary work visas with repressive conditions (through programs like the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program) than any other immigration category. Canada’s very food system is held up by the state’s exploitative immigration apparatus — whether it be migrant labour in fields, in greenhouses, in food assembly lines, or in food warehouses and fast-food sectors. These migrants work under extremely exploitative conditions and are denied labour rights that citizens can access, as well as basic protections. Moreover, the very cause for migration in the first place is rooted in the violence of colonial expansion and capitalist neoliberal globalization, as Canada exploits the land and lives of people in the so-called “global south” through mining practices, agribusiness and military occupation.
A structural analysis that challenges the converging forces of capitalism, colonialism and racism as the roots of the injustices that drive both our food and immigration systems must therefore be the base of our demand for healthy food for all.
In working to challenge the barriers that deny undocumented Montréalers access to food aid we are also more broadly grounding our efforts in struggles for self-determination and the freedom to move, demanding status for all, and, ultimately, an end to the current racist immigration regime and the colonial canadian state.
As our campaign moves forward, we would like to invite everyone to imagine what it would look like for Montréal to be a city in which food is truly accessible.
How can we enlarge our networks of solidarity and mutual aid to ensure healthy food for all?
If you’re interested in organizing with us, get in touch!
Solidarity Across Borders: firstname.lastname@example.org, 438-933-7654