Building a Culture of Solidarity with Migrant Workers
A Christmas Wish to mark December 18 International Migrants Day
On 4 December 2000, the UN General Assembly, taking into account the large and increasing number of migrants in the world, proclaimed 18 December as International Migrant’s Day. On 18 December 1990, the General Assembly had adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
“Building a culture of solidarity” is one of the objectives of many migrant advocates including the Montreal based organization Solidarity Across Borders. “Building a culture of solidarity” is a noble thought, as it is building a culture of peace and justice. But it is more than just a Christmas wish. Many around the world and here in Canada are doing just that. Every day migrant workers give us their strength and their solidarity, through their labour, to keep Canada’s economy strong. Everyday advocates from churches to labour and grassroots organizations stand in solidarity with migrants across Canada. Everyday migrant workers in Canada do their part to keep our country not just running, but happy, clean and beautiful. But are we citizens doing our part to keep migrant workers safe, let alone happy?
As I write, I try hard not to use words like xenophobia, racism, discrimination, and slavery. This is not about pointing fingers or making people feel guilty. But it is hard not to talk about our responsibility and what are we doing or not doing to ensure that migrants are treated fair and square. These are loaded words I know. But we need to check our guts and go to places inside ourselves which might be very uncomfortable.
It is heart breaking to realize that fellow Canadians fear migrant workers. It is difficult to hear that people don’t want migrant workers living in their communities. However, I am convinced, and have lots of examples to prove it, that those fears are the result of not knowing about who migrant workers. Who are they? What they do? Where and how they live here in Canada? Do they have families back home? What do they do in their free time?
Canadians both in urban and rural communities would benefit from taking the time to learn more about migrant workers. I am sure most people would change their perception of migrant workers if they had the chance to speak with them. They are like you and me. They have families. They have dreams to build a better life for their families. They want their children to go to school. They too have Christmas wishes. I believe you can help build a culture of peace, justice and solidarity. Happy International Migrant’s Day everybody!