Refugee Rights Day – recognized every April 4 – commemorates a historic decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada, a decision that changed the fate of many refugees arriving to seek asylum in this country. On April 4, 1985, the Supreme Court ruled – in what came to be known as the Singh Decision – that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects everyone’s right to justice when life, liberty, and the security of the person are at stake.
Yet, as April 4th transpires, the one nagging image that continues to haunt us is the reflection of refugees who continue to endure in silence because of the failure of past governments to recognize the anguish, isolation and vulnerability of refugees.
As a tenet of our ongoing advocacy for migrant workers in Canada, through our many social justice projects and activities, UFCW Canada draws parallel importance to the basic rights of refugees, including those who are victims of illegal sex and slave trade. These victims are often women and children transported from around the world, whose abject poverty and innocence lure them into this inhuman exploitation. As refugees, their susceptibility as temporary workers, produced against the backdrop of a perilous business of human smuggling and human trafficking, is way beyond and above what authorities and even the general public can grasp.
Thus, their tragic stories become statistics and in due course, numb the conscience of those in power.
We and our governments must not accept this — the utter lack of respect and compassion for refugees; the outright discrimination against them; or the breaking of the promise that Canada is indeed a safe haven for those who are persecuted. On April 4, Refugee Rights Day, let us recognize that three decades since the Singh Decision, we must continue our active stand in the fight for the basic human rights of our refugee sisters and brothers.