Toronto – December 16, 2014 – On International Migrants Day, December 18th, we are reminded that around the world more than 230 million women, men, and children are migrants seeking dignity, safety, and a better future – yet often find themselves the target of intolerance and exploitation.
The International Convention on the Protection of Rights of all Migrant Workers and their Families was adopted by the United Nations on December 18, 1990. The Convention promotes respect for the human rights of migrant workers and their families, and calls for equality of treatment and working conditions for migrants.
Canada is not a signatory to the Convention, and the Harper government refuses to sign the document. This is shameful but not surprising, for under the Harper regime, migrant and temporary workers are still treated like commodities whose human and labour rights can be ignored. More than that, the federal government recently reduced EI Special Benefits for migrant and temporary workers in Canada – including maternal, parental, and compassionate care benefits – despite the fact that migrant workers pay full EI premiums.
In September, a two-year legal challenge launched by UFCW Canada and allies brought a victory to 102 migrant agriculture workers by awarding them EI parental benefits that had been retroactively clawed back by the federal government. But since the case began, the Harper government has significantly reduced EI parental, maternal, and compassionate care benefits for other seasonal workers, even though they still pay full EI premiums. This is just one example of a regime that promotes the exploitation of migrant workers, rather than preventing it.
Discrimination against migrants is not the solution to protecting the rights and opportunities of both domestic and migrant workers. Migration has been fundamental to Canada’s evolution, and migrant workers continue to make a huge and positive contribution to our communities. If they are good enough to work here, they are also good enough to stay and contribute to building Canada, like the thousands of UFCW Canada Local Union members who have been provided a path to permanent residency through UFCW Canada collective agreements.
On December 18, International Migrants Day, let us reaffirm that the human and labour rights of all workers must be respected, and through those rights let us join together to build fairness and opportunity for every worker in Canada.
Paul R. Meinema