Education Has No Borders: celebrating the power of education for immigrant and migrant workers

Activists, academics, unionists, and the media recently packed the Tinto Café in downtown Toronto to take part in a UFCW Canada sponsored event called Education Has No Borders that provided community members with a fun-filled opportunity to see and try new migrant worker resources and discuss the empowering effect of education.

“This is a night to celebrate our ties as community activists and allies, and our past work together and the promise of the future of education,” said Naveen Mehta, UFCW Canada director of Human Rights, Equity & Diversity, who introduced over a dozen social partners and welcomed everyone to the event. Brother Mehta also announced the launch of five new migrant worker initiatives and resources.

Going forward, the children of migrant workers are welcome to apply for one of five UFCW Canada Migrant Workers Scholarships worth $1,000 each. Through community partners, like Migrante Canada and the Workers Action Centre, migrant workers will also have free access to the union’s webCampus and its hundreds of college accredited online courses. A new labour law blog concerning migrant and immigrant worker issues is also being developed in cooperation with the progressive immigration law firm Long Mangalji, LLP.

“We are very excited about the educational initiatives that have been launched at this event.  The webCampus will be of great benefit to our members in accessing courses that may have previously been out of their reach. This is the way it is supposed to happen – labour and community partnerships for the benefit of workers,” said Deena Ladd of the Workers' Action Centre.

The event also served as the official launch for two exciting new networks: the UFCW Canada Academic Support Network, and Students Against Migrant Exploitation, or SAME, which has already attracted a great deal of interest with several chapters in various universities and colleges across the country.

“UFCW Canada is proud to spearhead these new initiatives,” said UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley while taking a few moments to address the event’s enthusiastic participants. “Change happens with education and opportunities, and these new initiatives and resources are another example of how UFCW Canada is fully committed to helping empower migrant and immigrant workers to lead the change toward a more equitable society.”

“We all have an important role to play in creating change by making our friends, neighbours and co-workers aware of Canada’s dirty secret regarding the treatment of migrant workers,” said National President Hanley before introducing Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan who commended UFCW Canada for its “astonishing work” and for showing the rest of the labour movement how to build more meaningful and effective relationships with immigrant communities.

While important, the announcements were short and most of the evening was dedicated to enjoying the company of fellow activists and the work of several community artists, which included a live painting demonstration by Juan Esgueva, a traditional Colombian musical recital by Ruben Esguerra, an absorbing performance by the Company of Congas drummers, an acoustic number by the Migrante Youth Choir, a video presentation by Migrante Barrie is Online!, and the spoken word poetry of two local artist-activists – Eduardo Ramon and Manuela Astudillo.

For more on UFCW Canada’s migrant worker initiatives and resources, go to or contact


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Vol. X No. 20 • May 25, 2010