Migrant workers march from Leamington to Windsor

Posted by admin on Oct 12th, 2010

By Dylan Kristy, The Windsor Star October 12, 2010

As families and friends from across the country gathered for Thanksgiving feasts on Sunday, scores of migrant workers marched to raise awareness of working conditions they describe as insufferable. “Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for the harvest and the food and in this area all the harvest and all the food is grown by migrant labour,” said organizer Tzana Miranda Leal of Justice For Migrant Workers. She said most people aren’t aware of the deplorable working conditions, housing conditions and recruitment techniques the migrant workers are subjected to. “In agriculture you can speak to many of these people here today and they will tell you about unsafe pesticide use or machinery use or who don’t get proper training,” Miranda Leal said.

“Sometimes they don’t get the proper equipment or equipment at all to work with pesticides, so people end up going home with cancer, dialysis or broken bones.”

About 125 migrant workers left Leamington around 7 a.m. Sunday for the Pilgrimage to Freedom March that ended at the Tower of Freedom, a sculpture in Windsor’s civic esplanade that honours the flight of U.S. slaves via the Underground Railway.

Miranda Leal said one of the most prominent issues for migrant workers is the abuse by recruitment agencies.

“There are exorbitant fees to come to Canada by agencies and recruiters where people will pay tens of thousands of dollars under false pretenses that they are going to get a well-paying job, a safe environment to work in and no human rights violations by their employers,” Miranda Leal said.

Gina Bahiwal, 36, moved from the Philippines two years ago to pack produce in Leamington and said she never dreamt these injustices would happen in a developed country.

“I decided to work here because of the economic condition of our country but I was not expecting these injustices to happen to us workers because this country is industrialized, more advanced than our country,” Bahiwal said.

“We want all the Canadians to know what’s been going on here in Canada with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. We want to reform the program. Human rights need to be respected for all workers, including migrant workers.”

The workers and their supporters arrived at the Tower of Freedom around 7 p.m. holding signs saying “Status For All,” and “Eliminate Recruiters, Not Workers.”

“We chose this statue as the end for our brothers and sisters of the white-bred slavery,” Miranda Leal said.

“We always talk about how history seems to repeat itself and injustices in labour happen all over the world, over and over again but there is no reason that it has to.”

Comments are closed.