Re-imaging migration through art

January 21, 2013

Here are just a few beautiful images from Migration Now. You should really check out this limited-edition portfolio of handmade prints addressing migrant issues from Justseeds & CultureStrike for yourself.

Their description of the project is also inspiring:

Art and culture are the realm of ideas, images, and stories; it is where people make sense of the world, where they find meaning and forge community.

History shows that when the culture changes, politics follows. Art has a crucial role to play in transforming, redefining, and reimagining the global phenomenon of migration.

Nicolas Lampert is a Milwaukee-based interdisciplinary artist and author whose work focuses on themes of social justice and ecology.

Melanie Cervantes aims to translate the hopes and dreams of justice movements into images that are life affirming and inspire people to take action.

Ernesto Yerena was born in El Centro, CA, a mid-sized farming town bordering Mexicali, BC, MX. Fueled by his transnational upbringing, his art practice reflects his observations of the views and interactions between the Mexican communities living on both sides of the border.


Great series on Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers Program

January 10, 2013

Guatemalan migrant farm workers near Delta, B.C., who asked to have their identities hidden. Photo: Justin Langille

There is a great 4-part series in the independent daily online magazine The Tyee this week:

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers Controversy: Years in the Making

In this four part series, Krystle Alarcon brings together years of recorded injustice and abuse related to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers Program, which the Harper government says it is reviewing.

One remarkable quote from today’s piece is from Alberta Federation of Labour President, Gil McGowan:

McGowan draws a comparison to other countries. “We’re becoming the Dubai or Saudi Arabia of the North, not only because we have oil, but because we’re abandoning real immigration in favour of using an exploitative guest worker program to fill our most menial and undesirable jobs.

We’ve joined a global underground railway trading in human misery. It’s a shameful transformation and a betrayal of Canadian values and our traditional approach to immigration.”

You can read the whole series here.

Women and migration : A video from our counterpart, PCS

December 18, 2012

PCS se suma en este 18 de Diciembre a las distintas actividades previstas para conmemorar el Día Internacional de la persona migrante, y quiere especialmente visualizar la situación de las mujeres en las migraciones.

PCS is recognizing International Migrants Day by drawing attention to the particular situations facing women migrants. Take a look!

International Migrants Day

December 18, 2012

“When the rights of migrants are denied, the rights of citizens are at risk.”

The Migrant Manifesto, produced by the Immigrant Movement International.

If we take this quote to heart, we should all be very, very worried.

December 18 was identified 12 years ago by the United Nations to recognize and respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all migrants.

Ban Ki-moon’s message for Migrants Day on the UN website reads:

“As budgets tighten, we are seeing austerity measures that discriminate against migrant workers, xenophobic rhetoric that encourages violence against irregular migrants, and proposed immigration laws that allow the police to profile migrants with impunity.

During economic downturns, it is worth remembering that whole sectors of the economy depend on migrant workers and migrant entrepreneurs help to create jobs.””

Here in Canada, migrant workers’ rights were further eroded this month. As reported by Nicholas Keung in the Toronto Star, the federal government “quietly eliminated the special parental benefits for foreign migrant workers who contribute an estimated $3.4 million annually to Canada’s Employment Insurance system.” Earlier this year, new regulations were introduced to allow migrant workers in Canada to be paid 15% less.

These changes represent a further assault against a community that is already among the most vulnerable in Canada. Moreover, it is paving the way for a two-tiered society, with a growing population of workers being used exclusively for their labour, possessing fewer rights than others.

If you are in Toronto today, December 18, join Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) from 5:30-6:30pm for a vigil in honour of the International Day of Migrant Workers at the monument dedicated to the Chinese Railroad Workers in Toronto, located at Blue Jays Way / Navy Wharf Court, one street south of Front St., east off of Spadina:

This year’s vigil will highlight the litany of injustices experienced by migrant workers and the numerous forms of resistance that workers have undertaken against conditions under Canada’s migrant worker schemes.

Inter Pares continues to work with counterparts in Canada and abroad, to shed light on the realities facing migrant workers, and to advocate for positive policy reform.  Keep in touch with us via our e-newsletter, or make a contribution to our efforts today.

Justicia for Migrant Workers call for action on EI cuts

December 13, 2012

News about migrants in Canada -- Nouvelles sur les migrants au Canada

Dear J4MW network and allies

Over the last days we have sending information about the devastating and unjust news about recent Federal government’s announcement to eliminate Employment Insurance (EI) special parental, maternal and compassionate benefits for migrant workers starting on Dec 9th.

The Toronto Star has written both an editorial and a news item based on J4MW’s concerns over the recent elimination of Employment Insurance Benefits (maternity, parental and compassionate care). Special benefits are extremely important for migrant workers and their families because they provide income support to take care of new born babies, and ailing family members. We must fight against this tremendous injustice along with the workers and we need the support of all of you.

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The tour ends, but the work continues

November 28, 2012

In August 2012 we began talking to you about Just Work? A Solidarity Tour in Support of Migrant Workers Rights, and many of you took us up on our invitation to give your money and time to join the movement for migrant workers’ rights in Canada.

Thank you for your solidarity!  We are so proud of what we were able to accomplish this fall in collaboration with many activists and organizers in Ontario and Quebec, working on this important issue.

In their 14 day tour, José, Diego and Father Juan Luis visited 9 Canadian cities, held 20 meetings and reached over 500 people with their message.

The Just Work delegation, speaking at Octopus Books, in Ottawa.

As the trip was wrapping up, Inter Pares’ own Bill Fairbairn asked our visitors how they thought it went. José said he learned how to do advocacy work in a country like Canada and also felt he was now well practiced at finding different ways to advocate for workers rights, for different kinds of people and communities.

Diego felt that they now knew many of the main actors in the movement for migrant workers rights in the country –  connections that they will be able to draw on in the future.

Juan Luis was appreciative that Canadians had contributed time and money towards the tour, knowing that they were investing in a long-term struggle.

Diego, Juan Luis, Inter Pares ED, Rita Morbia and José at the Inter Pares office.

Here are some of the key messages we heard and shared throughout the tour:

Immigration policy reform should ensure that workers of all skill levels have a pathway to permanent resident status in Canada; work permits should be sector specific and workers should have the right to a fair appeal process.

As we learned from our allies at the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, changes since The House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration tabled the report Temporary Foreign Workers and Non-Status Workers in May 2009 provided new protection for live in care givers, but more reform is necessary to extend basic rights to all migrant workers.

Talking about the issues over dinner with new friends in Toronto from Justicia for Migrant Workers.

Governments can reduce migrant workers insecurity through legislation. The lack of political will among governments will continue to compromise migrant workers’ rights.

As Fay Faraday says in her report:

(Migrant workers) have fewer effective legal protections than Canadian workers. They are vulnerable to abuse by recruiters, immigration consultants and employers…they face tremendous barriers to enforcing the rights they do have.

There is need for more oversight of temporary workers programs in sending countries, and Canada.  José, Diego and Juan Luis’ visit offered a rare opportunity for people in Canada to become aware of the challenges facing workers not only while they are here in Canada, but before and after their stay.

Tzazna Miranda Leal from Justicia for Migrant Workers speaks with workers at dinner in Leamington.

Groups across Canada are doing great work, offering essential, community based services and advocacy support to migrant workers. Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, Students against Migrant Exploitation, Workers Action Centre, Justicia 4 Migrant WorkersHorizons of FriendshipNo One is Illegal, Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) workers’ support centre, UFCW Canada, Ontario Federation of Labour, Waterloo Region Migrant Workers Interest Group,The International Migration Research Centre (IMRC), New Canadians CentreMigrante Canada Canadian Council for Refugees, KAIROSWindsor Worker’s Action Centre, Immigrant Workers Centre  and the Coalition pour l’abolition de la discrimination systémique des travailleurs migrants are but a few of the amazing groups Inter Pares and the delegates got to know throughout the tour.

We look forward to continuing our work together.

If you have questions about Inter Pares and our work in Latin America, feel free to contact Bill Fairbairn at

All powered up!

November 23, 2012

Inter Pares staff, Eric Chaurette, speaking at Food Secure Canada’s Assembly earlier this month.

Early this month, on the last leg of the tour, Diego, Juan Luis, José joined Inter Pares staff Bill, David and Eric at Food Secure Canada’s Annual Assembly, Powering Up! Food for the Future.

David facilitated a workshop “Silent Harvest: Experiences of Agricultural Migrant Workers in Canada” where Diego, José and Juan Luis were joined by Pablo Godoy, National Representative, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada).

Bill, Diego and Juan Luis at the workshop “Silent Harvest: Experiences of Agricultural Migrant Workers in Canada”

José spoke as part of the plenary called “Local and Just or Just Local?”. At the workshop, participants also heard from Norma Kassi, Vuntut Gwitchin (People of the Lakes) and co-founder of the Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research  to explore systemic inequalities that local food can perpetuate.

Before parting ways, Norma gave the Just Work delegates a copy of “Our Changing Homeland, Our Changing Lives“, to show in their communities.  The film follows the people of Old Crow, Yukon over the last 20 years as well as their recent efforts to find food security in the face of a changing climate.

Bill and José at the FSC Assembly

The assembly also offered a wonderful opportunity for José, Juan Luis and Diego to get to know Inter Pares counterparts from Guinea-Bissau, West Africa, Augusta Henriques and Miguel De Barros who talked at the workshop GM Crops Will Not Feed the World: Info and Arguments to Take on Corporate PR

In the coming weeks, Food Secure Canada will be posting videos and summaries. Sign up for their newsletter to keep tabs on upcoming news.

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