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End the practice of closed work permits! End modern-day slavery

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End the practice of closed work permits! End modern-day slavery

MIGRANTE CANADA | STATEMENT

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

March 21, 2024

March 21 is a stark reminder that racism and discrimination, inequality and social injustice continue to destroy lives and communities and deny billions of people globally from enjoying full human rights and freedoms.

When the United Nations declared March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1966, it was to remember the Sharpeville Massacre on March 21,1960 when South African Police opened fire and killed 69 peaceful demonstrators protesting against the apartheid system and laws in South Africa. This UN day calls for the world community to not only remember, but also to fight against all forms of racism and discrimination because the legacies of slavery, colonialism, apartheid, and neo-colonialism continue to plague the world today.

The increasing numbers of people in the world who are forced to migrate, who are displaced in their home countries, and who labour like slaves in their host countries are evidences of the continuing legacies of colonialism, neo-colonialism, and imperialism. These systems enrich the elite who hold political and economic power, while they impoverish and exploit the many.

In Canada, Tomoya Obokata, UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, visited in 2023 and in his end of mission report and media statements  declared that “Agricultural and low-wage streams of the temporary foreign workers program constitute a breeding ground for contemporary forms of slavery.”  Employer specific work permits, which tie migrant workers to a single employer, make migrant workers vulnerable to contemporary forms of slavery and reluctant to report abuse for fear of losing their work permits.

Canada’s system of closed work permits is one of the pillars of its guest worker programs that profit from the indentured labour of migrants, a policy best described as modern-day slavery.

Migrante Canada and its member organizations, together with migrants’ groups, networks, and migrant justice advocates have consistently exposed and opposed the policy of closed work permits and the lack of access (or absence of access) to permanent residency and campaigned for regularization of status, a stand that Obokata has also clearly echoed in his end of mission report.

Migrante Canada declares that the closed work permit policy is systemic racism and deeply rooted in colonial systems that target migrant and racialized workers from the Global South.

Canada pays lip service to human and labour rights for all workers; it remains silent on the issue of migrant workers whose status make these rights, like open work permits, inaccessible, if not impossible.

Migrante Canada calls for Open Work Permits Now!

Migrante Canada calls for Regularization Now!

Migrante Canada calls for Status for All Now!

(Photo credits: Migrante Alberta)