Mennonites highlight plight of Canadaís undocumented migrant workers

By staff writers
June 10, 2006

Mennonites highlight plight of Canadaís undocumented migrant workers

-10/06/06

Mennonites in Canada are drawing attention on the plight of the countryís substantial invisible work force of undocumented migrant workers with a new movie made by film-makers Kairos and funded by the North American aid and advocacy agency Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

Borderless, a newly released 22-minute video, focuses on the dreams of Angela, a Caribbean domestic worker and Geraldo, a Costa Rican construction worker. They long to be reunited with their families and in the meantime they struggle to live in Canada without the protections afforded by legal status.

Both are motivated to provide a better life for their families living in their home countries. They are part of that group of people often damned by populist politicians as ëeconomic migrantsí ñ though many Western countries forget that they have grown wealthy themselves on the basis of economic migration.

The video has been accepted for presentation by the Winnipeg International Film Festival and is being shown on Sunday 11 June 2006 at the Advanced Pro Theatre, Prairie Theatre Exchange.

Angela and Geraldo are among thousands of migrant workers from developing countries vulnerable to labour exploitation in Canada, says Ed Wiebe, coordinator of the national refugee programme for MCC Canada.

"It is precarious at home but it also very precarious here," he explains. "If they are sick they can't go to a doctor or hospital because they don't have a health card. If they are mistreated they can't complain because they do not have a work permit. If they are discovered they are deported."

Undocumented workers are seen by many employers as a "cheap and compliant" labour force, said Wiebe in conversation with MCC writer Gladys Terichow. They often work for sub-standard wages and work long hours without adequate rest or overtime pay. In extreme cases, travel documents are withheld by employers.

An estimated 200,000 people work in Canada as undocumented workers. "Many people in Canada say that doesn't affect us," Wiebe comments, adding that he is hopeful the video will raise awareness of what they are contributing to the Canadian economy.

The message of the movie is that the basic human needs of all people, regardless of their legal status, need to be respected. It is one that parliamentarians playing political football with immigration across the post-industrial world may need to hear.

[Also on Ekklesia: Mennonite educationists touch global vision in Egypt 08/06/06; Inter-Mennonite agencies cooperate in disaster action; Mennonites describe Indonesian earthquake horror; Java quake scene like tsunami, says Indonesian Mennonite; UK Anglican election observer invited to Congo by Mennonites; Mennonites and other churches step up Darfur relief; Mennonites and Anglicans work to overcome violence in northeast Uganda; Cambodian tree project backed by fossil fuel-free Mennonites; More church agencies gear up aid for Java quake zone; End scandal of poverty in churches, says Mennonite leader; Mennonites to play mediating role in Congolese election; Decade to Overcome Violence gathers momentum]

Mennonites highlight plight of Canadaís undocumented migrant workers

-10/06/06

Mennonites in Canada are drawing attention on the plight of the countryís substantial invisible work force of undocumented migrant workers with a new movie made by film-makers Kairos and funded by the North American aid and advocacy agency Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

Borderless, a newly released 22-minute video, focuses on the dreams of Angela, a Caribbean domestic worker and Geraldo, a Costa Rican construction worker. They long to be reunited with their families and in the meantime they struggle to live in Canada without the protections afforded by legal status.

Both are motivated to provide a better life for their families living in their home countries. They are part of that group of people often damned by populist politicians as ëeconomic migrantsí ñ though many Western countries forget that they have grown wealthy themselves on the basis of economic migration.

The video has been accepted for presentation by the Winnipeg International Film Festival and is being shown on Sunday 11 June 2006 at the Advanced Pro Theatre, Prairie Theatre Exchange.

Angela and Geraldo are among thousands of migrant workers from developing countries vulnerable to labour exploitation in Canada, says Ed Wiebe, coordinator of the national refugee programme for MCC Canada.

"It is precarious at home but it also very precarious here," he explains. "If they are sick they can't go to a doctor or hospital because they don't have a health card. If they are mistreated they can't complain because they do not have a work permit. If they are discovered they are deported."

Undocumented workers are seen by many employers as a "cheap and compliant" labour force, said Wiebe in conversation with MCC writer Gladys Terichow. They often work for sub-standard wages and work long hours without adequate rest or overtime pay. In extreme cases, travel documents are withheld by employers.

An estimated 200,000 people work in Canada as undocumented workers. "Many people in Canada say that doesn't affect us," Wiebe comments, adding that he is hopeful the video will raise awareness of what they are contributing to the Canadian economy.

The message of the movie is that the basic human needs of all people, regardless of their legal status, need to be respected. It is one that parliamentarians playing political football with immigration across the post-industrial world may need to hear.

[Also on Ekklesia: Mennonite educationists touch global vision in Egypt 08/06/06; Inter-Mennonite agencies cooperate in disaster action; Mennonites describe Indonesian earthquake horror; Java quake scene like tsunami, says Indonesian Mennonite; UK Anglican election observer invited to Congo by Mennonites; Mennonites and other churches step up Darfur relief; Mennonites and Anglicans work to overcome violence in northeast Uganda; Cambodian tree project backed by fossil fuel-free Mennonites; More church agencies gear up aid for Java quake zone; End scandal of poverty in churches, says Mennonite leader; Mennonites to play mediating role in Congolese election; Decade to Overcome Violence gathers momentum]

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