By Maiya Letourneau, 4th Year Human Geography Major
Migrant workers often suffer through appalling living conditions, are subject to harsh and dangerous labour, and receive very little pay. Too often, notions of citizenship and birthright encourage borders and boundaries that polarize the “self” and the imposing “other”, while turning migrant workers into vulnerable “outsiders”, where they are denied the privileges of other citizens.
This year, our Geography 495 Social Movements in the Americas seminar sought to deconstruct these borders by learning about oppression and discrimination in Canada and Latin America. We invited Alexandra Henao, Raul Gatica and Gil Aguilar, members of The Indigenous Popular Council of Oaxaca in Vancouver (CIPO-Van), to speak with us about the struggles of migrant agriculture workers in British Columbia. We aimed to create social and cultural networks between ourselves and Latin American social workers and activists through guest lectures, group discussions, and community service opportunities.
One of our most rewarding classes involved creating a banner for the Migrant Workers’ Dignity Project (a new project of CIPO-Van). Following artistic advice and information from Canadian and Latin American artists, we created a banner that symbolized our efforts to build solidarity and resistance against discrimination and oppression. We hope that in some way, we succeeded in helping migrant agricultural workers stand up to discrimination.