Interview with Marcia

The following excerpts are from an interview with Marcia, an undocumented woman who has been living and working in Montreal for the past 35 years. [The interview was aired on No One Is Illegal Radio (CKUT 90.3 FM in Montreal), on November 5, 2015.]

Marcia came to Montreal from the Caribbean 35 years ago in 1981, looking for a better life for herself, and to support kids who she had left behind. She has been working and building community in Montreal for most of her life. After being here for more than three decades, she is facing health and financial difficulties. She's lived a good chunk of that time undocumented. Marcia's story is just one of tens of thousands here in Montreal. You cannot pass a day on the streets without encountering someone who is undocumented, whether you know it or not. We can probably estimate upwards of at least 40 to 50,000, maybe even close to 100,000 or more undocumented people who live in Montreal. Think about people working in fast food kichens, think about folks picking fruits and vegetables, cleaning up hotels, driving cabs, taking care of families, taking cares of kids. This gives you a face of undocumented workers in Montreal, one of those faces, one of those voices is Marcia.


What was it like for you to leave Jamaica?

It was exciting for me to leave Jamaica because I was going to another country, and I was really happy because I wanted to experience another country. ... When I arrived in Canada, I really liked it. It was my first time seeing snow so I was really excited. The christmas was fabulous. It was summer and I got a job right away and it was a very good experience. White people treated me good at that time, at my first job. I was taking care of three kids at that time. The lady who employed me was very happy and she gave me a raise a month after, and she asked me if I am sure I wasn't in Canada before, and I told her no.


What kinds of jobs did you do?

So my first was taking care of the kids and doing the housework. Taking care of kids, doing housework, doing the cooking. After that, I moved on to the second one which was the same thing: taking care of the house, taking care of the cooking. They always wanted me to cook, it was always that; children and doing the house.


Was it difficult for you to be living without status?

At first, it didn't bother me; it was when my mother and aunt had passed away back in Jamaica, and I couldn't attend [the funeral]. I had a breakdown. That same year, my aunt had passed away. That's the aunt I grew up with because my mother, my grandmother, everyone had lived together. So she raised me, and I couldn't attend. I really loved my aunt.


Since then, what has it been like living here without status?

It has been hard, but I mean not as much as now because I am not as young as before. Without status, I get sick, so it is really, really hard on me now. I don't have access to Medicare so it is very, very tough. While I had work, I had put aside [money], and now it's all gone because work has been slacking off. So it is pretty rough now, pretty rough, and I am still without status. Now, I have the diabetes and it has really affected my eyes, and it scares me because I don't know how much of my sight will be lost. It's because of the diabetes, and because I didnt have Medicare and I couldn't go to the doctor to get help. It's pretty bad. It's pretty bad.


And also being without status means you can't get any access to welfare...

I can't get access to welfare or disability. It really kills me. I felt really bad losing my apartment. I don't have my privacy anymore. I don't have my independence anymore. It is very hard right at this point. I didn't used to think about it before, those days I was much younger, I didn't have health problems. Now that I have health problems, who am I going to turn to for help? Its not like i just came to Canada; I was in this country since I was 22. It's pretty tough.
I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy... to be in a situation like this, because it's not a good situation. It's not easy to live like this; it's very traumatizing. In a situation like this, you can't just go out and tell everyone. It's a secret. When I came here, it was very cheap labour. It's really unfair because I have worked a lot of cheap, long hours. But at the time I was really grateful for it because I didn't know any better, and I was still very grateful and said, "its better than nothing." Right now, I have health problems and I can't work. If I had status, I could get back some help from the government. I can't.


The idea of everyone having status, accessing status, how do you feel about that?

I would feel very, very good, about everyone having status because that is what everyone wants: to be free, to not be afraid, to not be hiding. You could be out in the open like anybody else. You could walk into the hospital with a Medicare card. You have the Medicare card and you pull it out of your wallet. I would love for that day to come, for that freedom to come to me.