Proclaimed by the United Nations in 2000, December 18th is annually commemorated as International Migrants Day to raise awareness that the human and labour rights of migrant workers must be respected and protected across all borders. The UN points to poverty, conflict, or violations of human rights in their homelands as some of causes that have driven more than 175 million workers to leave their homeland in order to support their families.
In 2011, more than 250,000 migrant workers entered Canada under a variety of federal Temporary Foreign Worker programs that typically leave migrant and temporary workers at the mercy of their employers. As workers in a foreign country, their precarious status makes migrant workers particularly vulnerable to abuse, threats of repatriation and other violations of their human and labour rights. Added to that, both host and sending countries often can be actors in this vicious cycle of exploitation.
That may even include blacklisting. UFCW Canada Local 1518 recently filed charges with the BC Labour Board that Mexico and its consulate in Vancouver conspired with two BC farms to blacklist migrant workers who were suspected of supporting successful union organizing campaigns at those locations. The charges will be heard in February.
UFCW Canada has been an advocate and ally in the fight to protect and advance the rights of migrant workers for more than two decades. With our various national community partners and allies, we have been raising the exploitation of migrant workers as a human rights travesty that must be acknowledged and corrected.
With the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) now more than 10,000 strong and growing, we have continued to build solidarity with our migrant sisters and brothers locally and internationally. Through Education has No Borders, our national program empowering migrant workers and their allies through 20 scholarships, free online education and academic support networks, migrant workers are increasingly coming out of the shadows of exploitation into the light of liberation.
With over 50,000 individual contacts with migrant workers annually from a variety of industries and sectors of the economy, collectively with our allies and various national partners we are building a labour movement that represents all working people regardless of their citizenship.
In the courts, on the streets, in the political arena and through social and traditional media, and with our various national community partners and allies, we have committed to raise the exploitation of migrant workers in Canada as unacceptable. There is a thirsty movement of workers and activists coming together demanding that the Canadian embarrassment that is the Temporary Foreign Workers Program be replaced with a permanent residency strategy.
And the attacks on immigrant workers continue to be volleyed from the Harper Tories. For instance, the federal Government has substantially reduced the target of allowing live-in caregivers to become permanent residents in 2012 to between 8,000 to 9,300. That's down from 12,000 to 16,000 in 2011 or between 33% to 58%. It's a different scenario from the one Immigration Minister Jason Kenney promised in December 2009, when he said caregivers would now have a faster and easier path to permanent residency.
While we value what has been achieved, collectively we have battles that are yet to be won.
On International Migrants Day, we salute our migrant sisters and brothers for their dedication and hard work in order to make their lives and our lives better. We honour their personal sacrifices and struggles to provide for their families. We admire our migrant Brothers and Sisters for their commitment, perseverance and determination to win many battles despite all odds. Most of all, on December 18 we express our gratitude for the inspiration their courage provides in the fight to end human rights injustice and exploitation.