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The City of Vancouver's Limited Response to Migrant Worker Issues in Canada

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Panelists at the City of Vancouver project on migrant workers
Panelists at the City of Vancouver project on migrant workers
Reactions and comments from audience during launching of "Foreign Workers, Local Neighbours" project
Reactions and comments from audience during launching of "Foreign Workers, Local Neighbours" project


The City of Vancouver recently presented the video “Foreign Workers, Local Neighbours” to an audience of about 300 people. The video is part of a research project led by the City’s Working Group on Immigration and the Social Development Program.

The 20-minute video tells the stories of three migrant workers as they struggle to overcome various of hurdles ranging from isolation, job (in)security, access to assistance, and the small or non-existent prospect of obtaining permanent residency in Canada.

The video presentation was followed by a panel made of some members of the City’s Working Group on Migration, made up of Cecilia Tagle, Settlement Worker in the Schools/Vancouver School Board; Zool Suleman, Immigration lawyer, and Counsellor Geoff Meggs, as well as Junko, a migrant worker profiled on the video.

Counsellor Meggs noted that this video, along with a website, and a written report to Mayor Gregor Robertson are the deliverables of a project aimed at identifying the needs and resources of migrant workers in Vancouver. By the City’s own estimates, the majority of migrant workers in BC live and work in Vancouver.

The audience’s questions and comments towards the end of the event, reflected the frustration among migrant workers advocates about the unwillingness and/or inability of the City of Vancouver to take a stand and work with other levels of government and key stakeholders at fixing the policies, laws and regulations that have resulted in numerous violations to the legal and human rights of migrant workers.

During the questions and comments period, Justicia for Migrant Workers, Migrante BC, and Red Legal provided a much needed “reality check” to panellists and the public. Red Legal’s Angela Contreras-Chavez questioned the need to ask employers of migrant workers to pay a deposit that workers in urban areas could use to get free English classes, bus passes, affordable housing, among other services currently only available to holders of permanent resident visas. 

Adriana Paz of Justicia for Migrant Workers expressed her disappointment with this City project’s decision not to take an advocacy position that could help see migrant workers become permanent residents or eliminate obstacles to obtain work permits.  A more personal note during the comments period was offered by the youth at the room. A young member of Migrante BC shared the experiences she has endured as consequence of the exploitive and slave-like nature of programs such as the Live in Caregivers, which sees many Filipino mothers separate from their children to seek a living wage in Canada.

The “Foreign Workers, Local Neighbours” video clips and the City’s website on migrant workers can be accessed online at  

The Coalition for Migrant Workers Justice (C4MWJ) has issued a Statement of Unity which summarizes the wide range of migrant workers issues in Canada. The Statement can be viewed and signed online at    To join the C4MWJ or to learn more about advocacy for migrant workers in BC, email

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