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Report/Press release

Raising the Voices of the Migrant Workers in B.C.

Date

2011-04-19

Authors

Migrante Canada

Abstract

Coalition for Migrant Workers Justice: Raising the Voices of the Migrant Workers in B.C.

Vancouver, B.C. (April 19, 2011) – The many migrant workers under the government Temporary Foreign Workers Program have a strong friend and ally in the newly launched Coalition for Migrant Workers Justice (Coalicion por la Justicia de Trabajadores Migrantes / Koalisyon para sa Katarungan ng mga Migranteng Manggagawa) which held a press conference last April 19 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in east Vancouver.

Series title

Migrante Canada

Full text

Coalition for Migrant Workers Justice: Raising the Voices of the Migrant Workers in B.C.

Vancouver, B.C. (April 19, 2011) – The many migrant workers under the government Temporary Foreign Workers Program have a strong friend and ally in the newly launched Coalition for Migrant Workers Justice (Coalicion por la Justicia de Trabajadores Migrantes / Koalisyon para sa Katarungan ng mga Migranteng Manggagawa) which held a press conference last April 19 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in east Vancouver.

In the Coalition’s Unity Statement, the 13 members of the Coalition -- academia, faith-based groups, service providers, grassroots organizations and unions, human rights groups, and migrant workers themselves -- expose the injustice, the vulnerability, poor working conditions and barriers of the temporary foreign workers. Joe Barrett of the BC Building Trades Council said we are all connected with the migrant workers’ issue because “an injury to migrant workers is an injury to all Canadians,” most especially in the case of violations of labour standards.

From three East side Catholic churches run by the Scalabrinian priests who work and advocate for migrant rights, the Coalition now has the membership of the whole international community of the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles-Scalabrinians. “The church has to stand up to raise the voices of the migrant workers, we cannot stay quiet,” declared Fr. Marvin who spoke of the role of the churches in finding the space and voice for the migrant workers in the hearts of the Canadian public.

There are roughly 280,000 migrant workers in Canada, and 45,000 in B.C. For the first time, from 2008-2009, the number of migrant workers entering Canada outnumbered those coming in as permanent residents. Florchita Bautista from Migrante B.C. shared the stories of the live-in caregivers and added that the Philippines is one of the top source countries for temporary foreign workers. The shift to temporary migration with the migrant workers is a shift in Canada’s immigration policy which has welcomed immigrants on a permanent basis, with most becoming citizens. “Migrant workers are seen as economic units, not human beings with families,” said Adriana Paz of the Justicia/Justice for Migrant Workers.

To the question of “what is the real price that Canadians are paying for” when they buy the food from the local grocery chains, Raul Gatica, a farm organizer from the Surrey Centre of the Agricultural Workers Alliance (AWA)-UFCW and a former orchard worker in the Okanagan, said, “The real price is the price of terrible, very bad working conditions for migrant workers,” and then continued with “how local is local produce when we are using foreign labour? Think about that!”

Paco Tejero from the Canada Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR ) contextualized the issue of the migrant workers in the root problems of poverty and unemployment of sending countries like Mexico and the Philippines, and which push men and women to migrate and find jobs elsewhere.

The Coalition (C4MWJ), among the recommendations listed in the Unity statement, wants migrant workers to have access to more immediate MSP health coverage, access to the benefits from employment insurance that migrant workers contribute to but are constantly denied them, right to be treated with respect and dignity which includes full coverage under the Employment Standards Act, right to unionize, right to fair and decent housing and the institution of regulatory mechanisms to ensure that migrant rights are protected and respected. The most important recommendation is to give migrant workers access to permanent residency, rather than using migrant workers as a disposable source of labour.

Janette Mcintosh, Coordinator of the Coalition, invited everyone to join the Coalition members at the downtown Vancouver Central Library on May 14 and June 18, 12 noon – 1 pm to promote public awareness of migrant issues.

The Coalition members are Amnesty International-Richmond Group, Agricultural Workers Alliance (AWA)-UFCW Surrey Centre, BC Building Trades Council, Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights, Justicia-Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW), Kairos Vancouver & Richmond Kairos Committee, Longhouse Council of Native Ministry, Migrante B.C., Missionaries of St. Charles-Scalabrinians, Red Latina Legal, St. Joseph’s Langley Mexican Farm Workers Outreach, and the West Coast Domestic Workers Association. For information about the Coalition and its monthly events, email mwjeh11@gmail.com .

Links

Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers, Occupations in services - Domestic work, Sales and service occupations - general, Trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations - general, Natural resources, agriculture and related production occupations - general, and Labourers in food, beverage and associated products processing

Target groups

Policymakers, Journalists, Public awareness, Employers, agencies and their representatives, Researchers, Unions, and NGOs/community groups/solidarity networks

Regulation domains

Health and safety at work, Social security, (Im)migrant workers selection criteria, Right to equality (gender), Health care & social services, Family reunification, Status regularization procedures, Right to unionize, Newcomers integration programs, Remittances and co-development programs, Legal aid, Determination fair wages and labour shortage, Right to liberty, Right to choose place of residence, Access to permanent status, Migration expenses reimbursement mechanisms, Impartial hearing before deportation, Right to change employer, Recrutement / placement agencies, Trips abroad and re-entries, Labour standards, Housing standards, Right to dignity, Free employment services, Right to equality (social status), Employment insurance, Right to equality (national origin), and Right to privacy

Geographical focuses

British Columbia

Languages

English