Statement of Unity on Migrant Workers in Canada
Although invisible to many, migrant workers provide much needed services that would not otherwise be met by Canadians. They are employed as farm workers, janitors, cleaners, caregivers, construction workers, cooks and counter assistants and work on local farms and in restaurants, hotels, food courts, airports, hospitals and private homes in Metro Vancouver. We, as members of this coalition, the Coalition for Migrant Worker Justice, believe that migration raises serious economic, political, social, cultural, labour and ecclesial concerns in today’s globalized world. While working together to support and further understand the struggles of migrant workers living in our communities, we denounce the existing system and seek to transform our labour and migration law and policy into proactive mechanisms which reflect a nation respectful of all people, and in particular, justice for all workers. Today, there are approximately 280,000 migrant workers in all of Canada. In 2008 and 2009, for the first time in Canadian history, the number of migrant workers entering Canada outnumbered the number of migrants coming in as permanent residents. Canada, like many high-income countries in the Global North, has made use of migrant temporary workers to fulfil labour shortages traditionally in the agriculture and domestic care giving sectors through its Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) and the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP), which are part of Canada’s larger Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). During the last decade, the Canadian government has been aggressively expanding its TFWP as a short-term response to newer alleged labour shortages claimed from industry representatives from the construction, health, food and hospitality sectors, among others. Supporters and allies have followed the migrant workers’ struggles against the exploitative working conditions, lack of adequate regulation and rights to organize, and the absence of minimum protections they face under the TFWP. Building on the work of allies and workers alike, we have formed this coalition to raise our voices together in solidarity with temporary migrant workers in their pursuit of justice and the recognition that they are human beings and not mere commodities. We recognize the risks temporary migrant workers face in expressing their concerns publically and our privileged position to speak out against the injustice and poor working conditions that these workers have told us they face under the TFWP. In this context, we, the members of the Coalition for Migrant Worker Justice, have identified common concerns that exist for temporary migrant workers throughout Metro Vancouver under the four following headings with recommendations. (For a full listing please see full document.) 1. Temporary Migrant Workers face significant barriers to asserting their basic rights; 2. Temporary Foreign Worker status is inherently exploitative and exclusionary 3. Inadequate regulation of agents, consultants and recruiters increases the vulnerability of Temporary Foreign Workers. 4. The Temporary Foreign Worker Programs reinforce neoliberal policies and practices. We, the members of this Coalition, agree that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), which has been denounced by many — academia, the media, church and faith groups, service providers, grassroots organizations, unions and, most of all, the workers themselves – is exploitative, oppressive, and blatantly violates the human dignity and human rights of the marginalized temporary migrant workers from the Global South. This is a call to action – to denounce the existing system and transform labour and migration law and policy to make them proactive mechanisms that reflect a nation respectful of all people and, in particular, justice for all workers. We invite you to join us!