Toronto – December 13, 2019 – Each year on December 18, citizens around the world recognize International Migrants Day to honour the millions of migrants living across the globe. First recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000, the day also acknowledges the Assembly’s adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families on December 18, 1990.
Today, over 272 million migrants live and work abroad in order to provide for their families, including the thousands of migrants who participate in Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).
Over the last 30 years, UFCW Canada has worked tirelessly to amplify the voices of migrant workers and their families, particularly those working in the agricultural sector. This year, our union focused on educating workers about their rights on the job through a series of workshops held throughout the country. Following the federal government’s announcement of a new open work permit system aimed at helping migrant workers escape abusive employers, UFCW also helped migrant farm workers in Ontario and Quebec secure the first of these permits over the summer months.
As well, our union played a leading role in landing the creation of a new agri-food pilot program that will provide an additional 2,700 permanent residency opportunities for temporary foreign workers engaged in the agri-food sector, and the meat industry in particular.
On the advocacy front, UFCW Canada called on the federal government to introduce occupation-specific work permits to give migrant workers greater labour mobility; continued our efforts to establish mandatory health and safety training for all participants enrolled in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and TFWP; and demanded further action for temporary foreign workers in the wake of the tragic fire at Pioneer Flower Farms in Ontario.
While we continue to advocate for migrant workers’ rights and residency, and work to ensure that these issues remain priorities for governments, we must remind ourselves that every worker deserves equity and rights on the job, regardless of where they come from. And we must reiterate the belief that migrants who have been allowed to work in Canada should have the ability to immigrate here as well. This International Migrants Day, let us remind our friends, family, colleagues, and employers that if “you’re good enough to work here, you’re good enough to stay here.”
Paul R. Meinema