Migrant Advocacy group calls on Provincial Government to Protect Workers

Posted by admin on Sep 19th, 2010

(Toronto) Justicia For Migrant Workers (J4MW), a migrant worker advocacy group is saddened to learn of the latest tragedy facing the migrant worker community. On Friday September 10, 2010 J4MW learnt that two Jamaican migrant agricultural workers died as a result of workplaces injuries suffered at Filsinger Farms near Owen Sound, Ontario. “We are aggrieved by this tragedy,” states Tzazna Miranda Leal an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers, “We mourn this loss, and we send our condolences to the families of these workers” continues Miranda Leal.

While details of the fatalities are pending due to an ongoing investigation by the Ministry of Labour, the Jamaican government is reporting that Ralston White and Paul Roach may have died from the inhalation of toxic fumes. Health and safety violations are an everyday occurrence for migrant workers. From chemical and pesticides exposure, to faulty equipment, to workplace bullying and harassment, migrant workers from across the province have described countless examples of dangers while working.

It is critical to examine whether or not these men received safety equipment, what education and training they received or if they were provided information relating to their rights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. J4MW further argues that the structure of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), which employ approximately 30,000 migrant farm workers in Canada, denies migrant agricultural workers labour mobility and the ability to exert rights. Fear of reprimand–firings, repatriations/deportations and permanent disbarment from working in Canada–is a constant concern for many workers, whose employment and ability to work in Canada depends largely on their employers’ approval.

J4MW is urging the Minister of the Labour to consider the following options in addressing this tragedy: Snap inspections for all workplaces and accommodations where migrant workers live and work; a coroner’s inquest into the details relating to these workplace deaths; an appeals mechanism built into the SAWP and TFW so that migrant workers cannot be arbitrarily and unilaterally repatriated to their homeland (anti-reprisal protection); increased labour rights and protections for all migrant workers; and a criminal investigation into this workplace fatality as mandated by section 217.1 of the criminal code of Canada. The code states that:

Everyone who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.

Every year over 300 workers die in occupational related fatalities across Ontario. Countless others are maimed or injured. Agriculture remains one of the most dangerous occupations across Canada. Since 1999 there have been 33 reported deaths of migrant workers employed under the auspices of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program in Ontario and 1,129 medical repatriations of SAWP migrants (workers who left Canada because of illness or injuries sustained while in Ontario). The numbers of migrant workplace injuries and deaths are underreported because of premature repatriations and workers dying in their home countries as a result of injuries sustained while working in Canada.

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