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International Migrants Day, December 18

Today is the United Nations recognized International Migrants Day.

Over the past year, the Council of Canadians has taken action and commented on various situations related to the rights of migrants and refugees.

On December 17, Council of Canadians members from the Peterborough and Kawarthas Chapter joined three busloads of supporters from Toronto, Kitchener and Guelph (along with local supporters from the Peterborough and Lindsay areas, Food Not Bombs and Sustainable Trent) as they rallied at the provincial maximum security jail east of Lindsay in support of immigration detainees incarcerated there without charge.

On December 11, the Council of Canadians, the Public Service Alliance of Canada – Ontario, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the CUPE Ontario International Solidarity Committee and more than 50 other leading labour, civil society, grassroots groups and individuals joined with migrant detainees in Lindsay, Ontario to demand an end to the indefinite detention of migrants, a stop to their incarceration in a maximum security jail, and an overhaul to the adjudication process.

On December 8, the Vancouver Sun reported, “Harjap Grewal, who works for the centre-left Council of Canadians, compared the early Chinese men brought to B.C. to stop unionization efforts and work at ‘exploitative’ wages in the railway industry to the roughly 250,000 temporary foreign workers (TFWs) the federal Conservative government has now allowed into Canada. While many Canadians are concerned that the presence of an increasing number of TFWs is keeping Canadians’ wages low, Grewal emphasized the new TFWs have few rights, which makes them similar to Chinese workers of a century ago.”

On June 18, the Council of Canadians joined with hundreds of health care professionals, lawyers, and refugee rights activists to protest the government’s discriminatory cuts to health care for refugees.

On April 30, the Council of Canadians joined with numerous groups and wrote Public Safety minister Vic Toews, the president of the Canadian Border Services Agency, and executives from Force Four Entertainment and Shaw Media, to express “collective concern about Border Security: Canada’s Front Line”.

On January 28, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated, “The Harper government has changed Canada’s refugee determination system in a way that creates a two-tier system of refugee protection, which is vulnerable to political whims, rather than ensuring a fair and independent decision-making process.”

And last December, we commented that the Harper government is prioritizing the Canada-European Union free trade agreement (CETA) over the rights of persecuted peoples to seek refuge in Canada.

We are also very cognizant of the fact that as climate change accelerates, the world’s climate refugees will be water refugees. A United Nations World Water Development Report says that by 2030 nearly half of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress. On December 14, 2009, the Council of Canadians marched with No One Is Illegal in Copenhagen, during the climate summit there, to highlight the reality and inter-relationship of climate change, water scarcity and migration.