Warren Smokey Thomas and Eddy Almeida

Fighting racist attitudes and barriers on International Migrants Day

A man with gloves works in an artisanal environment
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As the number of migrants worldwide grows, it’s extremely important to mark December 18, International Migrants Day.

Some 281 million people worldwide were international migrants in 2020. Most left their homelands of their own accord, while many – almost half of them children – were forced to flee because of natural disasters, hardship and poverty, and armed conflict.

Canada has always relied heavily on newcomers for its success – and it continues to. The theme of this year’s observance, “Harnessing the potential of human mobility”, must be underscored, as it is migrants who bring their knowledge, skills, experience and culture to build stronger communities and a more prosperous, competitive and diverse economy.

As we commemorate International Migrants Day and celebrate the contributions of migrants, we must also recognize that too often, migrant workers are among the most vulnerable workers in our society; the ones who pick the crops which feed our cities, the front-line workers who keep our working and living spaces safe and clean, the cooks in the hot kitchens preparing restaurant meals, and so much more.

Migrant workers are doing the tough jobs others refuse. Many of these jobs are done by undocumented workers who suffer outrageous violations of their employment standard rights. Under threat of deportation at any moment, they are at the mercy of crooked employers.

Tragically and unfairly, many are prevented from contributing their full potential because of discriminatory policies, which prevent them, and their hard-earned credentials, from being properly recognized. It’s about time that our government ordered licensing bodies to remove unduly restrictive and racist barriers to professional accreditation.

Newcomers offer the assurance of a prosperous future. The success of our country, and our province, depends on migrants and their capacity to thrive. On this International Migrants Day, we thank migrants for choosing Canada, and we remain committed to bringing down the barriers to their full participation in society.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU/SEFPO President
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer