Remittance Justice

By Kay Bisnath, ACORN International, and Pascal Apuwa, ACORN Canada

The Canadian government can no longer afford to be apathetic towards the plight of migrant workers' remittances when they are behind a guest-worker program that accepts candidates based on low levels of education and strong family ties. With such criteria it is unimaginable that the government would be unaware of the role of remittances in the lives of these workers’ families.

Every year, 20,000 workers from Mexico and the Caribbean, mostly men, make the journey to work in Canada’s agricultural sector, largely in southern Ontario and British Columbia. These migrant workers are brought to Canada through the government sponsored Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) for up to eight months. The program describes its function as matching “workers from Mexico and the Caribbean countries with Canadian farmers who need temporary support during planting and harvesting seasons, when qualified Canadians or permanent residents are not available.”

 

Read more: Op-Ed: Canadian Government Allowing Migrant Worker Ripoffs on Remittances

There is no paper trail. There is no public oversight. There are no clear rules. Yet the cash flow is staggering: roughly $200 billion a year.

That is how much immigrants and migrant workers send home though a makeshift network of traders and couriers. Canada’s share — approximately $7.5 billion a year — dwarfs the country’s foreign aid budget.

Although these untraceable remittances do a tremendous amount of good in poor countries, they also pose serious risks for both the sender and the state.

Immigrants have no guarantee their earnings will actually reach their families. The money could be pocketed by greedy middlemen, stolen in transit or whittled down by bribes to corrupt local officials.

Governments have no way of telling how much dirty money from drug dealers and terrorists is circulating in the system. It is certainly conducive to both.

 

Read more: Toronto Star: Help immigrants ship home cash

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