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As part of UFCW Canada’s national initiatives with immigrant and migrant worker communities, about 25 UFCW Canada delegates and allies from across the country actively participated in the 13th National Metropolis Conference — Immigration: Bringing the World to Canada, held in Vancouver, British Columbia. The conference included six plenary panels, over a hundred workshops, and a thousand participants from across the globe.
The Metropolis Conference has historically been a place for the federal departments of the HRSDC and CIC to pat themselves on the back while being willfully blind to the inhumanity of the Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program. At the conference, the UFCW Canada caucus which included Local Union Presidents Ivan Limpright (1518), Robert Zeigler (832), and Alain Lachaîne (Local 501); Secretary Treasurers Theresa McLaren, (Local 401), Jeff Traeger (Local 832), Mario Delisle (Local 501), and Tony Soares (Local 1000A); as well as additional staff and activists from Local Unions 1518, 247, 401, 1400, 832, 1000A, 501,and AWA Centres in Surrey, B.C., Abbotsford, B.C., and St. Eustache, Quebec met with government officials, lawyers, academics, and community allies from Migrante Canada and Migrante B.C., to ensure that a progressive voice on immigration was heard loud and clear by the federal government.
“Among many positive outcomes of the Metropolis conference, UFCW Canada delegates and community activists, together, made unified and powerful statements and presentations on the endless list of injustices occurring in Canada under the TFWP,” said Ivan Limpright,president of UFCW Canada Local 1518.
Making formal presentations for the delegation was UFCW Canada Director of Human Rights, Naveen Mehta, in a workshop entitled Mapping Migration from the Americas: Exploring Migration Flows to Canada from Latin America and the Caribbean along with several academics. Similarly, Virgilio Ayala, Coordinator of the St. Eustache AWA Support Centre presented at the workshop Being a Temporary Foreign Worker In Canada: Human Rights, Regulations, And Cultural, Social And Economic Experiences.”
“I have yet to hear a rationale argument as to why we have a TFWP when there is nothing temporary about it. Canada has always needed workers who have been part of the nation building process, says Brother Mehta. “That is no longer the state of affairs. We must move back to a system where people can immigrate permanently to Canada, have families, and hope that the next generation does better than the previous one - not a program that just cycles different workers in and out of the country. The Program is not temporary — the workers are.”
Throughout the four-day Metropolis conference UFCW Canada’s Good Enough to Work, Good Enough to Stay (GEWGES) Exhibition Booth acted as a central meeting spot for many progressive delegates. UFCW Canada activists and staff, including Michael Toal, Joyne Lavides, and Alex Banaag, distributed hundreds of pages of eye-opening literature, posters and reports about the decades old struggle of migrant workers in Canada, as well as academic research documenting the dark side of the TFW program.
Among these was, the Exploitation Express (Metropolis Edition) news magazine developed specifically for the conference by UFCW Canada’s HRED department to highlight some of the more prominent problems plaguing the TFWP. The Jason Kenney (Federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada) Hand Sanitizer elicited chuckles and attracted many to sign up for future UFCW Canada project updates including a few Citizenship and Immigration bureaucrats. The UFCW Canada Migrant Worker Book of Abuse was an instant hit for many working on migration issues as it documented hundreds of media reported migrant worker abuse cases from across Canada from 2010-2011.
Among activities to take part in at the UFCW Canada booth was the Migrant Workers Quiz on interactive touch screen computers. These quizzes fascinated many by testing their knowledge about the real facts relating to the TFWP. A roving UFCW Canada video interviewer which allowed many delegates to take a stand on migrant workers issues and shared their views and experiences on camera.
UFCW Canada and partners Migrante BC and Migrante Canada, held a standing room only forum and press conference during the opening day on the Denny’s $10 million class action lawsuit and, closed the conference with a strong, loud yet peaceful demonstration of over 90 people in front of Denny’s restaurant in downtown Vancouver. For more information on the Denny's Lawsuit Press Conference and Demonstration please click here.
Speaking to the need for unions to work closely with community and activists groups, Robert Zeigler, President of UFCW Canada Local 832 indicated, “we work shoulder to shoulder with a number of social justice groups in Manitoba including Damayan Manitoba, a chapter of Migrante Canada. We have an increasingly close and meaningful relationship with Damayan which is resulting in positive outcomes for workers. In Manitoba, we know that if we are to move a progressive, social justice based agenda forward in the province, the only way we will be able to do so is by working together.”
Vol. XI No. 15 • April 11, 2011