Toronto – December 16, 2013 – International Migrants Day – December 18, annually commemorates the adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families by the United Nations on December 18, 1990. In this upcoming holiday season, migrant workers can only hope that their ability to access to Employment Insurance (EI) special benefits is restored in Canada. In 2012, the Harper Conservatives took advantage of the most vulnerable workers in our great country and curtailed access to Parental Leave and other special leave benefits; the only benefits that had ever been available to migrant worker under EI — all of this while the Harper government continues to annually collect millions of dollars in EI premiums from migrant workers.
This shameful injustice cannot be left unchallenged, and just a month ago our efforts showed that WE can make a difference. Working with community allies, we were able to convince a federal court that the arbitrary denial of Parental Leave EI benefits to migrant workers was not only shameful but illegal. The Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the Office of the Umpire would be mandated to re-hear 102 cases pertaining to EI benefits sought by migrant workers throughout the 2012 qualifying period. Most cases comprised of Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) members. The Court of Appeal cited that migrant workers are at a “unique disadvantage” with respect to their ability to file EI claims in the first place.
For decades, UFCW Canada has been the leading voice and advocate for migrant and temporary foreign workers in Canada. December 18, International Migrants Day serves as a reminder that while we have advanced, the struggle for migrant workers’ rights continues. So does our commitment.
On this 23rd anniversary of International Migrants Day, let us remember that Canada was built on the backbone of migrant Labour. While facing tremendous struggles herself, one migrant worker recently commented that, "in spite of the challenges and obstacles we face, to improve our lives and those of our families back home, we should not keep our problems and abuses to ourselves. We need to work together to make a difference. Beautiful pictures are developed from negatives in a dark room."
History has shown that we can light a candle in a dark room and in doing so we too can be the change that brings fairness back to our great Canada.