Canadian Labour Congress

Canadian Labour Congress

December 16, 2009 10:30 ET

Canadian Unions Observe International Migrants Day

Migrant workers' rights are human rights

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 16, 2009) - Canadian unions are observing International Migrants Day on Friday, December 18, and are calling on governments to adopt and ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

The day, proclaimed by the United Nations, recognizes the contributions of migrant workers and calls for measures to protect their rights. "In Canada, migrant workers provide care for our children, the elderly, disabled persons and the ill," says Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress. "These people are also behind counters serving coffee, stocking shelves in stores, building our infrastructure, and driving transport trucks across the country. We honour the contributions of migrant workers, but this should also be a day of action."

More than 25,000 migrant workers come to Canada each year to plant and harvest crops. Most work in Ontario where, despite the dangers and hardships of farm work, their right to join unions is prohibited by the Ontario government. This week the Supreme Court of Canada is reviewing a Charter challenge by UFCW Canada to end that ban and return the right to unionize - as guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms - to all those working in Ontario agriculture.

"This shameless discrimination must end," says Wayne Hanley, the National President of UFCW Canada (United Food and Commercial Workers). "Many of these workers lack fluency in English and French, and many work in small communities. So they remain invisible and voiceless, yet they are vitally important to almost every sector of our economy. It's time these workers received the respect they deserve, the protections they need, and the right to collective bargaining that the Charter guarantees to them and all workers in Canada."

Canada's immigration policy further denies justice to migrant workers. The federal government's Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program now comprises over 250,000 migrant workers, but the program does not provide a national framework with meaningful workplace protections for them. Proposed regulatory changes to the TFWP will soon limit workers to a stay of only 48 months in Canada. But unscrupulous employers and labour brokers will be allowed to continue to operate and exploit migrant workers with relative immunity.

Labour leaders are calling on Canadians to contact Members of Parliament to tell them that human rights must apply to everyone in Canada - including migrant workers. That will occur only when Canada adopts and ratifies the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.2 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada's national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils. Web site:

Contact Information

    Michael Forman
    National Representative
    416-675-1104 ext.249
    Canadian Labour Congress
    Human Rights and Anti-Racism
    Karl Flecker
    National Director
    613-614-7065 (FAX)