Toronto – March 30, 2016 – On April 4, 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protected the rights of refugee claimants in Canada to life, liberty, the security of the person, and the right to be heard in an open court. This groundbreaking ruling – known as the Singh Decision – is commemorated annually on April 4, as Refugee Rights Day.
The Singh Decision afforded many of those who have entered Canada a greater opportunity to become part of the Canadian Mosaic. Yet, for the vast majority of the 60 million refugees worldwide desperately seeking a new home, the prospects are exceptionally bleak.
For instance in 2014, conflict and persecution forced an average of more than 40,000 people a day to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere, either within the borders of their countries or in other countries. Syria is currently the world's largest source of refugees – with 95 per cent located in surrounding countries – and accounting for almost one out of every four refugees worldwide.
Canada’s effort with regard to Syrian refugees is something that we should all take pride in. The last few years were incredibly horrific for most of the Syrian refugees who have recently entered Canada. In anticipation of the arrival of Syrian families, UFCW Canada, along with allies in the Canadian labour, have been supporting the Canadian Council for Refugees to ensure that we do our part as Canada’s private sector union to help build a better life for these families.
The road ahead is undoubtedly a difficult one. Most Syrian refugees arrived in Canada with only a suitcase or two. Many will require English as-a-second-language support for both themselves and their children, occupational skills development, and, of course, securing a job. These individuals, most of who arrive with their families, are typically either sponsored by the federal government or privately sponsored. After a year of sponsorship, which includes support for a place to live among other supports, the hope is that at least one of the parents will have secured employment to sustain the family.
Most refugees will be successful in securing employment after much effort and searching. As we know, a workplace can provide an enriching experience – but in the cases of bad employers, can also be a source of exploitation. Our firm commitment to Syrian refugees and all newcomers to Canada is that UFCW Canada is here to support your access to a fair workplace. When you and your coworkers choose to join a union, UFCW Canada, with over 100 years of supporting, advocating, and servicing the needs of working people, will be there to stand up for your rights at work, in the community, and society – on Refugee Rights Day, and every day of the year. You are certainly not alone.
Paul R. Meinema