International Migrants Day: Canada's exclusionary immigration practices have got to go!

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"Migration is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future. It is part of the social fabric, part of our very make-up as a human family." -- Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

Today, on December 18, 2014, Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (RAMA) will be joining countless groups around the world in commemorating the 14th annual International Migrants Day. Inaugurated in 2000, December 18 coincides with the United Nations' adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which Canada has refused to ratify.     

Migration has been a natural part of human existence for millennia. Even so, in recent decades, the pace of migration has increased dramatically. Rising global inequity, environmental disasters as a result of climate change, humanitarian crises, free trade policies and aggressive development projects like mining have forced millions of people from their homes and communities. According to the UN, the number of global migrants today totals 232 million, a number that does not include migrants that resettle or are displaced within their own countries.  

Notably, accelerating global migration has been accompanied by increasingly restrictive border controls and exclusionary, racist immigration policies.

Although Canada has relied on migrant and Indigenous labour since before confederation, in 2008, for the first time in Canadian history, Canada admitted more 'temporary' 'foreign' workers than permanent residents. Non-citizen migrant workers, in comparison to Canadian workers, are legally subordinated by their temporary status. Migrant workers are therefore more likely to put up with unsafe working conditions and poor accommodations, endure illegal restrictions on their freedom and keep silent in the face of mental, physical or sexual abuse.

Moreover, many of these men and women are here to take on jobs that Canadians are unwilling to fill themselves, such as farm work, childcare or low-paying seasonal work in the hospitality and service sectors.

Current immigration policy, while explicitly non-racial, nonetheless continues to exclude predominantly poor, racialized groups from permanent status in Canada. Indeed, Canada's determination to keep certain people permanently temporary by precluding them from pathways to residency and citizenship reflects its ongoing commitment to building a certain type of society -- one that remains, with few exceptions, predominantly white and European. 

Everyone, regardless of their country of origin, ethnicity, gender or immigration status, should have the right to move or not move and to remain and reside with their families wherever they choose without being detained, criminalized,or otherwise impeded by state borders or exclusionary immigration practices. 


Please join RAMA in commemorating International Migrants Day on today, December 18 at 2:00 p.m. PST on the Highway 97 Pedestrian Overpass (by Parkinson Recreation Centre) in Kelowna.





Amy Cohen is a Professor of Anthropology at Okanagan College. Elise Hjalmarson is currently completing her Master's at UBC Okanagan in Political Studies. Both are co-founders and members of Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (RAMA).

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