Islanders and Migrant Workers Invited to Public Forum

O’Leary:  What does a Filipino woman in a PEI fish plant have in common with an Islander working in Alberta’s oil patch? That question will be explored at an upcoming public forum hosted by the PEI Coalition for Fair EI. Going West: How Government Policies are Forcing Workers to Leave Home will take place on Saturday, March 14th, at the Alice Duncan Intergenerational Centre (544 Main Street) in O’Leary from 2-4pm. This event will bring together Islanders and foreign workers to discuss the experience and causes of forced labour migration.

According to the event organizers, the forum will address how both local and global worker migration impact the people forced to leave home, the families left behind, and the economies relying on money sent back home ‘from away.’

Josie Baker is a coordinator with Cooper Institute and one of the organizers of the event. “The experience of being forced to migrate for work and support your family from afar is one that both Islanders and foreign workers can relate to,” Baker says. “This is not accidental – the ‘flexible’ worker is something that has been demanded by the global corporate sector, and deliberately created by government policies. But this takes place at the expense of workers who are uprooted, of families left at home, and of home communities.”

This event will feature a presentation by Esel Panlaqui, a community worker from Toronto who works with migrant workers and has experienced forced migration from the Philippines herself. Ms. Panlaqui will present on how the country of the Philippines has long had governmental and economic policies that force people to leave home to work in countries all over the world. With more and more Islanders working away, PEI may have something to learn from economies like the Philippines’, which have long been heavily reliant on wages sent home from workers abroad.

This presentation will be followed by group discussions and a chance for foreign workers, Island workers, and other community members to share personal stories about the causes and impacts of leaving home for work.

Katie Mazer is a member of the PEI Coalition for Fair EI, and has spent several years doing research in conversation with Maritimers migrating to Alberta for work. “On PEI we often talk about migration as ‘just the way things are,’ but it’s also important to understand the factors that are making it harder and harder for people to stay here,” Mazer says. “Recent policy changes—especially cuts to EI—are designed to make more workers move out of communities with high unemployment. This kind of policy-making values the demands of industry executives at the expense of workers, rural communities, and seasonal economies. The problem isn’t that people are leaving; it’s that many Islanders feel they don’t have a choice.”

This event is free and open to all to attend. Bursaries for travel and for child/elder care are available upon request. For more information, or to register, contact Cooper Institute at or call 1-877-894-4573. The storm date for the event is March 15th.

Forum Poster