December 18, 2021
Stef Martin, Secretary-General, Migrante Canada
Chris Sorio, Secretary-General, Migrante BC
International Migrants Day City Proclamations in British Columbia and Alberta Twenty-one years ago, the United Nations proclaimed December 18 as International Migrants Day (or IMD). It offered a “rallying point for all those concerned with the protection of migrants” and a day to “celebrate the role of the migrant and the contribution the migration brings to development.” This year, the International Migrants Day is proclaimed in the five cities in BC: Vancouver (since 2016), Burnaby and Surrey (since 2020), Richmond and New Westminster (in 2021). In Alberta, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi of the City of Edmonton declared its first IMD Proclamation this year on the request of Migrante Alberta. It was in 2016 when the City of Vancouver issued the IMD, making it the first city in Canada to do so. Then Mayor Gregor Robertson signed the City Proclamation on the request of Migrante BC. In 2020, Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley and Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum joined Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart in proclaiming December 18 as “International Migrants Day” in their cities. This year, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie and New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote have joined the other cities in proclaiming International Migrants Day. The City Proclamation for IMD is a recognition not only of the presence of migrant workers, who are also essential workers, and their families who live and work in our cities but also of the contribution of their labour that keeps our cities going, especially during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. It also acknowledges the struggles, problems, and sufferings of migrant workers and a call to stop the exploitation and trafficking of migrants. Under the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the City Proclamation recognizes that “migrants are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 through job losses, evictions and discrimination.” The City Proclamation helps to “draw attention to the situation of migrant workers, which includes low-skilled temporary foreign workers, caregivers, and the seasonal agricultural workers, especially to their precarious and vulnerable working and living conditions, their access to basic services and social entitlements.” For Migrante Canada, it is also drawing attention to the conditions that drive workers from countries in the Global South such as Mexico, the Philippines, Guatemala to migrate and labour in the cities in the Global North. The City Proclamation is not only a Declaration but also a commitment made by these Cities to migrants and immigrants. In Vancouver, the Proclamation “builds on the City’s Access to City Services Without Fear for Residents with Uncertain or No Immigration Status Policy--the City’s commitment to a welcoming and safe environment to people of all cultural backgrounds by providing access to City services, including those with temporary status, uncertain status or no immigration status.” It is a recognition of the ethnically diverse populations in British Columbia and a commitment “to providing a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment to people of all nationalities and cultural backgrounds.” It is a City’s commitment to a welcoming and safe environment to all, including those with temporary status, uncertain status, or no immigration status. In December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. A decade later, in 2000, the UN designated December 18 as International Migrants Day to promote awareness of the large and increasing number of migrants in the world. The 2020 global estimate of international migrants living in countries other than their own nations has grown to 281 million. While we celebrate IMD in our cities, it is also a reminder that while 55 countries have ratified the Convention and 14 countries have signed the Convention, Canada has neither signed nor ratified this UN Convention. The Canadian Council for Refugees writes that “It’s time for Canada to live up to the rhetoric and make a real commitment to migrant workers’ rights by signing on to the UN Convention.” It adds that the Convention “sets a moral standard and serves as a guide for the promotion of migrant rights.” Migrante Canada and its chapters and member organizations stand in solidarity with migrant workers all across Canada and around the world to celebrate International Migrants Day, a day of celebration and reaffirmation of our commitment to our struggles as migrant workers.