“On a day like today, we unite our voices to recognize the invaluable contributions that millions of migrants across the world make daily to create better living conditions for everyone. Even though participating in our societies, the other side of the story is that simply for being migrants, millions are victims of discrimination, xenophobia and a myriad of violations against their human rights. It is because of this that today, on International Migrants Day, we reaffirm that human rights are rights for all persons.”

– Joint Statement by UN Experts, the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, and the ACHPR Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants, 2012

On December 18, 1990, the United Nations adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Ten years later, the United Nations General Assembly designed the 18th of December as International Migrants Day. Today is an important day to promote the human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants, many of whom are working internationally to overcome poverty, social conflict, and other forms of adversity to create a better life for their families.

Today, I want to recognize the role that these individuals, especially low-skilled workers, have played in contributing to the lives of countless Canadians. They live on our farms and pick our fruits and vegetables. They leave their own families to take care of Canadian toddlers and seniors. They fly thousands of miles to serve coffee and perform menial tasks in the rural areas.

In Canada, we call them temporary foreign workers. And while there has been much coverage of the increased role they are playing in the Canadian economy, there is less of a media spotlight on the human rights abuses this vulnerable population face. Although their workplace health and safety standards are covered by the provincial employment codes, low-skilled temporary foreign workers often face workplace violations. The most common are payroll violations, but they are also denied proper safety equipment and relevant safety information, inadequate housing, restrictions in their physical mobility, arbitrary repatriations and termination. Women in the domestic sphere also face a heightened risk of sexual violence.

By celebrating International Migrants Day, we honour the work of migrant workers within Canada and we reaffirm the importance of ensuring that all individuals within our borders receive the proper and full protection of the law. Today is a reminder that Canada must still ratify the International Convention protecting the rights of migrant workers and their families.  On this day let us make the commitment to stop the human rights abuses against them, especially in Canada.  It is our collective responsibility to make migration work for the benefit of migrants and countries alike.

International Migrants Day 2013

Read more about the history of International Migrants Day here.

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