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International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

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Wednesday, December 2, is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. Its ongoing focus is to eradicate contemporary forms of slavery.

In addition to human trafficking and child labour, there is also sexual exploitation, forced marriage, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict. All of these forms of slavery pose a serious threat to millions of people around the world, said OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

“Sadly, today we are seeing sinister practices aimed at young children, young men and women as victims of human trafficking and child labour,” said Thomas, who also pointed out that the people who are most often the victims are also the victims of systemic discrimination; Black people, Indigenous peoples and other minorities.

“OPSEU/SEFPO will always be a loud and vocal voice against all forms of slavery wherever in the world they’re found,” Thomas added.

Descent-based slavery also still exists in some cultures around the world today. It is the situation where a child is born of ancestors who were slaves and who then become slaves themselves.  Moreover, slave status is passed down via the maternal line.

“They live a lifetime of exploitation and are treated as property by their ‘masters’” said Peter Thompson, Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO Coalition of Racialized Workers (CoRW).  “These individuals can be inherited, sold, or even given away as gifts and/or wedding presents.  It’s wrong and incredibly inhumane,” he added.

COVID-19 has highlighted a number of deficiencies in many of our social structures, among which is the slave-like treatment of people who are part of the (highly regarded) Canadian Migrant Farm Workers Program.

OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice President/Treasurer Eddy Almeida says the union has called for changes to this program for years. “We believe that these workers deserve to have a safe environment in which to work and be paid fair wages,” said Almeida.  “Unfortunately, we heard over the last few months just how inhumane this program is, with the avoidable deaths of two workers and the firing of one who was courageous enough to blow the whistle.”

Putting an end to this and other forms of modern-day slavery will require more than just one country, one government or one labour organization. In order to see the end of these unacceptable practices, we must all continue to bring light to its existence, and support organizations working to bring it to its end.

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