British Columbia proclaims December 18 as International Migrants Day (IMD) in the whole province to recognize the contributions of migrants to the province as well as the many challenges they face in Canada. The Provincial Proclamation was witnessed and signed by the Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of the Province of BC and the Honourable Niki Sharma, Attorney General of BC.
Part of the Declaration reads that “migrants across the world often have temporary, uncertain or no immigration status and may be exposed to precarious and vulnerable working and living conditions, with limited access to essential services,” and that “despite the challenges they face, migrants have proven to be a source of prosperity, innovation and sustainable development to their host countries as well as countries of origin and transit, while their knowledge, networks and skills contribute to the development of resilient communities….”
The Declaration continues that “International Migrants Day is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of migrants in British Columbia and to raise awareness of the millions of international migrants who continue to take perilous journeys each year.”
This Proclamation makes British Columbia the first and only province, to date, to declare such a Proclamation.
The proclamation was requested by Migrante BC, a grassroots organization dedicated to the promotion of migrants’ rights and dignity, to mark this global celebration started by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2000. December 18th is significant because it was on that same day in 1990, that the UN General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
MLA Mable Elmore read the Provnical Proclamation and presented the framed Proclamation to Maria Fe Infante, the chair of Migrante BC, after the Burnaby City Mayor Mike Hurley read and presented the City of Burnaby IMD Proclamation to Migrante BC at the Proclamation Presentation Ceremony at the Burnaby City Hall chambers on Dec 18. Councillors Maita Santiago, Richard T. Lee and Daniel Tetrault were at the ceremony with members and friends of Migrante, Dignidad Migrante, including Anna Lu from the Burnaby Public Library Board and Ana Maria Bustamente of the Burnaby Intercultural Planning Table.(Group photo below).
From the Cities to the Province. In 2016, Migrante BC took the unprecedented move to request the City of Vancouver to proclaim Dec 18 as IMD in the City. Then Mayor Gregor Robertson signed the City Proclamation, making it the first city in Canada to do so. Regardless of who sits as Mayor, the Vancouver City Proclamation has been signed every year. Other cities followed, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proclamations were signed and proclaimed in other cities in BC in the past years: Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, New Westminster, and Surrey.
Inspired by what Migrante BC did, the Filipino migrants’ organization Pilipinong Migrante sa Barrie (Filipino Migrants in Barrie) in Ontario requested a similar IMD proclamation from their City Council in 2022, making the City of Barrie the first in Ontario to do so. In 2023, Mayor Alex Nutall proclaimed once again the IMD in Barrie. See photos of the Proclamation and members of the PMB below.
In 2021, the City of Edmonton issued its first IMD proclamation, the first city in Alberta to do so, on the request of Migrante Alberta.
The BC Proclamation and the other City Proclamations across Canada are for ALL migrants, regardless of their countries of origin, regardless of their status and work – most especially the low-skilled temporary foreign workers, the caregivers, the seasonal agricultural workers, precarious migrant workers, and international students. The Proclamations draw attention not only to the situation of precarious and vulnerable working and living conditions (e.g., like the closed work permits), their access to basic services and social entitlements, but also to the conditions that continue to drive workers from countries in the Global South such as Mexico, the Philippines, and Guatemala to migrate and labour in the cities in the Global North.
Migrante BC recognizes that these IMD proclamations are not only Declarations, but also Commitments to migrants and immigrants to welcoming, inclusive, and safe cities to people of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, regardless of status.
On the 23rd anniversary of International Migrants Day, Migrante BC is happy to share the news of the Official Provincial Proclamation in BC with everyone. Happy International Migrants Day!