Monday, October 27, 2008
Migrant workers Speak Out in Montreal
Montreal, Sunday, October 26, 2008 -- As part of International Migrants' Alliance (IMA) - Canada's nation-wide activities to mark their opposition to the UN-sponsored Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Manila, more than fifty migrant workers, refugees, immigrant textile workers and their supporters came together in Montreal in a Speak-Out which exposed the "true cost of migration".
The Tamil Assembly of Montreal, PINAY – Filipino Women's Organization of Quebec, the Immigrant Workers Centre, the South Asian Women's Community Centre and several other groups participated in the event. The speakers and and audience members systematically debunked the claim promoted by the GFMD that "forced migration can be a model for development". Local journalists were also present. Rita Costa, of the Movement Against Rape and Incest, was the bilingual MC.
The Montreal event coincided with other IMA-Canada events in Vancouver, British Columbia and Toronto, Ontario to support the International Assembly on Migrants and Refugees (IAMR), a migrant-led counter conference organized at the same time as the GFMD in the Philippine capital by the International Migrants' Alliance (IMA).
The afternoon session began with a presentation by Joey Calugay on the United Nations-sponsored (and imperialist-backed!) GFMD and the reasons why the migrants themselves decided to organize the IAMR and call for solidarity actions around the globe.
Joey is a member of the Filipino Workers Support Group of Montreal and a staff organizer for the Immigrant Workers Centre. He also sits on the national organizing committee of BAYAN-Canada, an Alliance of progressive and anti-imperialist Filipino organizations across Canada.
Tamil refugees Speak Out!
Three members of The Tamil Assembly then exposed the wave of deportations that is hitting their community, many members of which are accused unjustly of being "terrorists". They presented an emotional appeal for an immediate moratorum on the deportations of their community members back to Sri Lanka. They explained that many Tamil refugee claimants are beginning to see their claims denied and are facing deportation to a country where conflict still exists and where Tamil's are being targeted. Gross human rights violations are being perpetrated against Tamils under the US-ideology of the "war on terror", which is used by the Sri-Lankan government to try to quell resistance.
Canada, which has major investments in Sri Lanka and in south Asia, has been backing the Sri Lankan government and the speakers explained that there is even talk of allowing Canada's warships to dock in Sri-Lankan ports. As a partner on the war on terror, Canada apparently views the enemies of the Sri Lankan government as their own and as result appears to be "discriminating against Tamils seeking refugee status in Canada". Apparently bending to pressure from the Sri Lankan government, Canada has now said that, "it is safe for Tamils to go back".
The participants at the Speak Out offered their full support to the Tamil refugees. (For more information on the situation of Tamils the speakers suggested the web site: http://www.tamilnet.com/)
Live-in caregivers Speak Out!
Josephine Calugay, a former live-in caregiver, explained how her group PINAY was organized in 1991 to address the issues of Filipino women and live-in domestic workers in Quebec. Since its inception, PINAY has been leading in the struggle to ensure that the rights and welfare of Filipina migrant workers under the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) is upheld, she said.
Josephine explained that Canada today continues to widen its temporary workers program at the same time it makes its laws stricter to prevent most migrants from ever getting permanent status in Canada. Workers under the Federal government's LCP are also impacted by these policies. She said that the government of the Philippines boasts about its own Labour Export Policy, which was organized to systematically export Filipino workers to other countries. "The Philippine government claims that this will solve the problem of unemployment in our homeland and will enable families receiving the remittance money to live better. But we migrants know the devastating long-term impact that these policies have on our lives and that of our families, and how it has not led to true development for the people of the Philippines," Josephine concluded.
Migrant factory workers Speak Out!
Gurvinder Kaur, a former worker at the textile factory, L'Amour Inc, talked about the campaign of laid-off workers from that company to get just compensation.
Gurvinder is originally from India and worked for the Montreal-based company for several years before being laid off with hundreds of her co-workers in 2007. The majority of the workers came from countries like Haiti, the Philippines, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. She explained that just like thousands before them, they and their families were forced to leave their countries in search of a better life abroad. For many of them, the temporary or seasonal work that was available in their home countries was not enough to survive on.
Gurvinder said that after having settled as immigrants to Canada, they worked loyally for this sock-making company, helping to make L'Amour one of the most competitive in the world. But after years of labouring and creating profit for this company, she said, they were unceremoniously laid-off. Also the company did not even bother to help the workers apply for retraining and reintegration programs which would have helped them find other jobs or helped them survive during this difficult period.
Companies like L'Amour have found it more profitable to move their operations into the Third World, benefiting and making super profits from the exploitation of cheap labour, Joey Calugay said. "The story of the immigrant workers of L'Amour is a story of displaced peoples. Development does not exist for them and their example shatters the myth that forced migration can lead to development both for their countries of origin and for themselves as workers", Joey concluded.
For photos of the event, please follow the following links : http://www.flickr.com/photos/cap-cpc/sets/72157608433744751/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/29070363@N06/sets/72157608399311964/detail/