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Mr De Souza, a Toronto resident for 25 years, passed away on Saturday, January 18th but is yet to have a funeral, because the family is unable to afford the costs associated and the City of Toronto will not pay simply because Mr De Souza was undocumented. The City has asked Mr. De Souza’s family to declare the body abandoned after which they will put it in a box, and burn it instead of following their internal processes and subsidizing the funeral. If this happens, Mr De Souza's children will be unable to say their last goodbyes.

This morning at 10am, Family, friends and supporters of Rogerio Marques De Souza including members of No One Is Illegal Toronto, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, and other community organizations were outside Toronto Metro Hall, ready to demand that the City of Toronto provide him with a funeral subsidy like any other low-income Toronto resident so that his family can carry out his last rites.

However, a private organization stepped in to pay for the funeral which is now happening later today as a result of the Toronto Star story this morning. We postponed our action this morning but the family have resolved to make sure this never happens to anyone else in the city. We will be taking joint actions in the coming week. We cannot rely on the charity of individuals to step up each time while allowing laws and policies to continue to discriminate against undocumented people.


In the meantime, we need you to act

(1) Email the City of Toronto & Premier of Ontario

Email: Patricia Walcott, General Manager of Toronto Employment and Social Services at and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne at Cc

Tell them that in Feburary 2012, Toronto promised undocumented residents that they could live here without fear. Now, the city staff tells us that our communities can't even die with dignity. Undocumented people in Toronto deserve the same services as everyone else. Insist that this must never happen again. Let them know that neither municipal or provincial laws must shut out undocumented families. More background below.

(2) Comment on the exploding debate in the Toronto Star

The body of an undocumented migrant from Brazil has been sitting at a Toronto hospital morgue since Saturday because his three teenaged children can’t afford to bury him. Should the City of Toronto pay the costs? That question has set off an emotional debate on - please go and participate!

** Should Toronto pay for an undocumented migrant's funeral? The debate in 9 comments

** City of Toronto refuses to pay for funeral of undocumented immigrant

Rogerio Marques De Souza: His Fight for Status in Life and Struggle for Dignity in Death??

Rogerio Marques De Souza was a proud, soft-spoken man. Always the generous one, never the one who asked anyone for anything. He had lived in Toronto for nearly 28 years without immigration status, but almost no one knew about this secret.

Rogerio's family remember him as a private man who didn't want to bother anyone. Initially he was unable to afford treatment for his cancer because he was denied health coverage. He suffered silently, asking no one for help and only when he reached the last stages of cancer did he enter in to treatment at Toronto General Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital. To do so, he quietly signed a payment agreement with them, and went back to work.

He was laid off from his construction job a few weeks later when they realized that he was coming to work with a colostomy bag attached. Being without a job broke his heart, but he found work at a bakery soon after to keep going, paying his health bills, until one day he collapsed and was moved into palliative care. He died last Saturday. His children were unable to see him in the hospital, and have been unable to visit him at the morgue.

Over the years Mr De Souza faced various injustices, including separation from his children as a result of his undocumented status. He persevered, doing the best he could, working every day, and supporting his friends and family. His passing is a tragedy, and the immensely long week where the family has tried to find the resources to pay for his funeral have been utterly traumatizing. No one deserves to be treated like this at the end of their lives, and definitely not because of citizenship documents.

More on him:

The struggle for Access Without Fear and Status for All

Every year, we at No One Is Illegal - Toronto work with families trying to get access to basic services or regularize their immigration status. These are people trying to do right in the world, but being shut out by a Federal government that denies them status, and provincial and municipal laws and policies that further illegalize them. The entire structure of laws and policies, at every level of government and service provision functions as a set of borders, where migrants without status are pushed out. Families are driven into poverty and yet can’t access basic services or bury their loved ones with dignity.

Too many families, like Rogerio's, have to contend with these daily indignities. This must stop. As we fight against the forces of displacement, as we fight for the freedom to move and to return, as we strive to be in solidarity with Indigenous land defense struggles, we will also fight for a migrant's right to live and die with dignity. We will do so publicly. We will do so militantly, and each time we are fighting for access for one family, we will insist that no other person face this same discrimination again.

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