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VANCOUVER, BC - December 19, 20011 - Over a hundred workers and community and labour activists converged at Library Square in downtown Vancouver, Canada yesterday chanting 'Stop the Blacklist', in a protest aimed at the Mexico government and its Vancouver consulate. It was the third such protest in the last two months and the largest to date — combining street theatre, a holiday choir, and even a solidarity visit by Santa Claus.
The protests came in the wake of charges filed with the BC Labour Relations Board (BCLRB) alleging Mexico and its Vancouver consulate conspired with local agriculture operators to blacklist Mexican migrant agriculture workers suspected of being union supporters. The charges were filed by UFCW Canada Local 1518 — the union that a majority of Mexican migrant workers at two BC farms voted to join. This season many of those workers were refused visas to return to Canada. They were given no explanation, but the evidence placed with the BC Labour Board, including leaked documents, alleges the reason was blacklisting by Mexico, its Vancouver consulate, and the employers (for background and documents see www.ufcw.ca/stoptheblacklisting).
The latest protest coincided with International Migrant day, December 18th — the day that commemorates the proclamation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers. "Migrant workers have the basic human right to equal treatment under the law wherever they work, including the right to join a union in Canada," said Frank Pozzobon, the secretary-treasurer of UFCW Canada Local 1518, to the hundreds gathered in the square. "We stand here together to say to Mexico you must not abuse the rights of any worker in Canada, and that includes our brothers and sisters from Mexico."
Joining Pozzobon to address the crowd were Jim Sinclair, President of the BC Federation of Labour; Joey Hartman, the President of Vancouver District Labour Council; Raj Chouhan, MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds; and Senator Mobina Jaffer representing British Columbia.
As part of the blacklist protest, the crowd also produced a list of their own for Mexico. It was a Christmas Wish List for respect and dignity for migrant workers, and for a stop to the blacklisting. The list was handed to Santa Claus for delivery to the Vancouver Mexico consulate, along with a 'Who's Been Naughty' list, with Mexico at the top.
While the gathering was festive and feisty, it was also clear that frustration is growing with Mexico's latest attempt to skirt the blacklisting charges by claiming diplomatic immunity. The BCLRB will hear the case in February. "Mexico can try to hide, but it should not go unsanctioned if the evidence shows it blacklisted," says Wayne Hanley, the national president of UFCW Canada. "Canada has a moral and legal responsibility to protect the workers in question, as well as to protect its own sovereignty."
This is the last edition of Directions for 2011. Directions will return on January 3, 2012.