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VANCOUVER, BC - November 14, 2011 – About a hundred community and labour activists gathered outside the Mexico Consulate in Vancouver on Monday with coffins, tombstones and crosses, along with a petition to "Stop the Blacklisting" of Mexico migrant workers in Canada by the Mexico government.
The midday protest comes in the wake of allegations that that the federal government of Mexico and its Vancouver consulate conspired with two British Columbia agriculture operations to blacklist certain Mexican seasonal migrant workers from returning to Canada ever again because they were union sympathizers. Workers have also been told to stop visiting support centres run by the union in British Columbia.
As onlookers gathered around the scene at the consulate, the protesters held a mock funeral for the rights of the workers who tried to exercise their basic human and labour rights to organize and bargain collectively.
The allegations and evidence regarding blacklisting and intimidation been filed with the British Columbia Labour Relations Board. The charges were filed by UFCW Canada Local 1518 — the union the migrant workers joined (for background see www.ufcw.ca/mexicocharges).
"Mexican workers in British Columbia have the same right as all other workers to join a union without fear of reprisal," says UFCW Canada Local 1518 President Ivan Limpright. "Mexico must respect that, as well as respect their citizens in Canada who work so hard and should not be punished for exercising their rights under the law."
The blacklisting charges will be heard by the BCLRB in February. The Government of Mexico and its consulate have claimed sovereign immunity, bluntly telling the BCLRB that the board does not have the authority to rule on how Mexico treats its citizens — in Mexico or in British Columbia.
‘‘Mexican consulate officials in Vancouver better understand that Free Trade doesn’t mean they are free to abuse the labour rights of their citizens working here,’’ says Wayne Hanley, the National President of UFCW Canada. UFCW Canada is Canada's largest private-sector trade union, and in association with the Agriculture Workers Alliance operates 10 centres across Canada to assist migrant agriculture workers.