Timeline: Marcia’s Year-Long Fight for Access

access for all logo1981 Marcia arrives in Montreal on the invitation of a friend. She is 22 years old. She soon begins to work as a nanny. She remains in Canada with irregular status.

1982-2012. She continues to work as nanny and housekeeper in many households as well as caregiver at assisted care facilities for the elderly. Over the years, she made many friends and acquaintances, but is too afraid to reveal her status to anyone. She attempts to contact a lawyer to help regularize her status; but nothing works out because the advice is confusing and the fees very expensive for her modest income.

2013 Marcia’s health has deteriorated. As an undocumented woman, she is not eligible for healthcare. She is afraid but realizes she must seek medical help. She learns she has diabetes. She cannot pay for treatment, but Médecins du monde helps her. She becomes active in Solidarity Across Borders and is supported by their network as well.

2014 Her eyesight is failing. She now only has part-time cleaning jobs. She is hardly able to pay rent. As an undocumented woman, she is not eligible for social assistance or housing.

2015 Marcia’s eyesight worsens. Finally, she is diagnosed with glaucoma. Unable to see, she can no longer work or pay her rent. She loses her apartment, becomes homeless; moving from friend’s to friend’s. With a public fundraiser, she is able to access an urgent operation to try to save her sight. It is too late: in December, she becomes completely blind.

January to June 2016. Marcia is now completely dependent on other community members, financially and for daily living. Marcia’s ophthalmologist refers her to the Montreal Association for the Blind (MAB-Mackay) for rehabilitation services, necessary for her safety and to help her to regain autonomy. MAB MacKay is the designated provider of rehabilitation services for anglophone populations living in Montreal. The request is refused because of Marcia’ immigration status.

June 2016. Marcia’s lawyer submits an application for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds. The Immigration Canada website states that there is an average processing time of 30 months for this kind of application. If Marcia is accepted, she will have to undergo further checks and apply for a Certificat de sélection du Québec before getting permanent residence; all of this can take an additional year.

June-October 2016. On the advice of a friend, Marcia goes to her local CLSC, which again refers her to MAB-Mackay for rehabilitation. She is again refused by MAB-Mackay because of her immigration status. The CLSC appeals the decision and in October, Marcia is told that MAB-Mackay will offer her services; they open a file for her in a telephone interview, asking about all her needs.

December 2016. MAB Mackay reverses its decision. In a letter to Marcia dated 22 December 2016, they write, “We understand that you have no status at the present time … 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 … ”

February-April 2017. Montreal adopts a Sanctuary City motion. Sixty healthcare workers and community members and organizations co-sign a letter to MAB MacKay insisting Marcia receive services. Denis Coderre is copied on this message. MAB MacKay responds once again to refuse access. A petition is launched in support of Marcia and quickly gains the support of hundreds of organizations and individuals.

May-June 2017 A press conference is called. On May 19th, MAB-Mackay contacts Marcia; they want to meet to discuss what services they can offer but are still not ready to commit to giving Marcia access to services based on need, regardless of immigration status. On May 24th, Marcia holds a press conference calling on City of Montreal to intervene and to ask MAB-Mackay to adopt a policy of access to undocumented people. 1st June, Marcia receives a letter (dated 23 May) saying that she will be able to access MAB-Mackay’s services.