December 18, 2020
Unifor joins with the United Nations, migrant worker organizations and social justice advocates around the world to recognize December 18, International Migrants Day. On this day we demand equal protection for the human rights of migrants and appreciation for their contributions to Canada and the global community.
As many Canadians turn their attention at this time of year to the well-being of their families and social actions in our communities, Migrants Day is a timely moment to affirm our solidarity with the many thousands of migrant workers who make Canada better through their work in agriculture, food processing, health care, hospitality, construction and many other sectors.
But after enduring difficult working conditions, violations of basic rights, and suffering disproportionate impacts of the pandemic throughout 2020, hundreds of temporary foreign workers remain stranded in Canada as winter commences. Unifor calls on Canada to extend work permits and immediately provide Employment Insurance and health care benefits to workers excluded from these essential benefits.
Unifor welcomes Canada’s increased immigration targets for 2021-2023. However, migrant workers deserve equal access and new pathways to permanent residency and citizenship. We are not surprised that recent Statistic Canada reports have shown that immigrants with Canadian work experience as temporary workers are more successful than other economic immigrants when they achieve permanent residency status. Permanent residency for migrant workers is the just and effective way to meet Canadian immigration goals and address the exploitation, precarious work and racism that has characterized Canada’s temporary work programs and immigration policies.
On International Migrants Day, Canadians must also extend our global solidarity to respond to the migration explosion resulting from violent conflicts, genocides and environmental and climate change disasters. The displacements from these global events have seen the numbers of migrants rise to over 272 million people in 2019 - 3.5% of the global population.
To meet this global urgency the United Nations in 2018 adopted the “Global Compact for Safe Orderly and Regular Migration.” This compact pledges all nations to protect the “safety, dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their migratory status” and to “support countries rescuing, receiving and hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants.” These issues are now posed in new and dangerous ways by the COVID-19 pandemic which has disrupted migration patterns and locked down migrants working as front line service and care providers. Millions of migrants and refugees are living in dense urban areas and camps extremely vulnerable to transmission of disease. A new global health tragedy will be all but inevitable unless vaccines and care are provided equitably and affordably to all nations and to migrants in all countries regardless of their status.
Canada’s increased international assistance of more than $700 million for vaccine procurement for low income countries and additional commitments for development aid are commendable. However, Canada’s total COVID related global aid is about 0.5% of our national COVID related spending. Unifor supports the call of Canadian NGOs for Canada to urgently increase its COVID related global aid to 1% of domestic program spending.
Unifor is proud to stand in solidarity with our allies in the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change and other unions, migrant worker organizations and social justice organizations who speak and act for the rights and dignity of migrants in Canada and the world.