January 1, 2024 – In a much-awaited move, the province of British Columbia proclaimed December 18 as International Migrants Day (IMD).
The provincial proclamation acknowledges that migrants continue to face challenges but “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 proclamation issued December 14, 2023 and signed by the province’s Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin and Attorney General Niki Sharma makes B.C. the first and only province in Canada to declare the proclamation that recognizes the contributions of migrants across the country.
The declaration follows the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) designation of December 18 as International Migrants Day in December of 2000. The UNGA noted that migration is a global phenomenon that start with aspirations for dignity, safety and peace, adding: “The decision to leave home is always extreme, and, too often, the beginning of a dangerous, sometimes fatal journey.”
On December 18, 1990, the UNGA adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
The provincial declaration also states that IMD “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.”
Migrante BC, a grassroots organization committed to the promotion of migrants’ rights and dignity, was instrumental in making the provincial proclamation come to fruition.
In 2016, Migrante BC advocated the City of Vancouver to proclaim Decembre 18 as IMD in the city. Then mayor Gregor Robertson signed the city proclamation, making Vancouver the first city in Canada to do so. Other B.C. cities that followed since then were Burnaby, Richmond, New Westminster and Surrey.
In other provinces, the City of Edmonton issued its IMD proclamation in 2021. Edmonton is the first and only city in Alberta to have done so. In 2022, Migrante BC’s Ontario counterpart Pilipinong Migrante sa Barrie (Filipino Migrants in Barrie) successfully requested a similar proclamation from their city council, making the City of Barrie that first in Ontario to declare December 18 as IMD.
The B.C. proclamation and city proclamations across Canada cover all migrants, regardless of their countries of origin and of their status and work. Migrants include temporary foreign workers, caregivers, seasonal agricultural workers, and international students.