The United Nations (UN) proclaimed December 18 as International Migrants Day to recognize the contributions of migrants around the world and to acknowledge everything migrant workers do to help the economies of their host communities.
The estimated number of international migrants has increased over the past five decades. Currently approximately 281 million people are international migrants living in a country other than their country of birth. Every year, people around the world face the devastating impacts of conflicts, diseases, disasters, and climate change that force them to migrate. At the end of 2021, a staggering 59.1 million people were internally displaced (55 million in 2020). 53.2 million were due to conflict and violence while 5.9 million were due to disasters.
In Canada, systemic inequities continue to deny migrant workers’ rights. Globally, Canada has yet to ratify the International Convention of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Despite this, migrant labour remains a staple of the Canadian economy for food production and processing. On average, about 50,000 to 60,000 agricultural workers arrive in Canada on an annual basis.
This June, UFCW Canada published its annual Status of Migrant Agricultural Workers in Canada Report, which highlighted the increasing vulnerability experienced by migrant workers in the wake of a deadly pandemic. The report makes twenty recommendations that must be implemented as part of a desperately needed overhaul of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to more adequately address the well-evidenced vulnerability that migrant workers experience.
In 2022, UFCW Canada partnered with Mexican governments to launched the Migrant Workers Representation Pilot. This pilot project involves migrants participating in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) – a long-standing bilateral arrangement between Mexico and Canada and subset of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) – and aims to demonstrate the critical role that proper representation serves in keeping migrants safe at work and free from the abuse of exploitative and irresponsible employers. To learn more, sign up for updates here.
UFCW Canada will continue to fight for the right to unionize agricultural and temporary foreign workers in Canada. Confidence in Canada’s temporary migration programs will not be restored so long as the design of immigration policies focus on sustaining precarious labour. It also means continued advocacy to ensure that migrant workers’ rights are strengthened at all levels of government and through bilateral nation-state agreements.
Migrant workers sustain Canada’s food supply and as another year dawns, we give gratitude for the sacrifices and labour that accompany this mobility.