J4MW raises concerns over increased policing powers: Migrant activists concerned that racialized workers to be targeted by new Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act

As Ontario prepares to enforce the provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) expresses our concern about the implications and impact this will have on precarious communities such as migrant farm workers.

In response to efforts by the Leamington community to name and shame migrant farm workers for not social distancing, the local detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police created a youtube video to ‘educate’ migrant workers of their responsibilities to socially distance while in public. Our concern is with how policing will be used to disproportionately target racialized migrant workers in rural communities across Ontario. J4MW has been active in efforts to address police violence enacted against migrant farm workers with respect to racialized policing.

We find it disconcerting that local community members are so concerned about migrant workers’ social distancing while in public, yet do not share the same concerns regarding the lack of protections and accommodations provided by the employer to ensure that migrant farm workers are able to socially distance in their workplace and home. Employers have long been able to get away with this due to the multitude of exclusions that deny migrant farm workers the same rights and protections that resident Ontarions receive.

Actions by OPP and other police agencies, such as ticketing and fining, will have significant economic implications for a population that lives and works below the poverty line. In addition, ticketing migrants may also have dire consequences on their immigration status and the ability of workers to return to Canada to work in the future.

As we are in a crisis, resources should be spent on preventative measures such as ensuring that all communities have access to healthcare and a social safety net, rather than disproportionately targeting and intimidating marginalized communities. Migrant workers are at risk of the spread of this pandemic not because of racial characteristics or cultural differences but because of deplorable working and living conditions that are not subjected to the same levels of scrutiny. We have raised our concerns several times that targeting particular communities will only fan the flames of further hostility, xenophobia, bigotry and racism.

In closing, J4MW will expose any and all forms of racialized policing that targets farm workers in rural Ontario. Whether it is intimidation, harassment, or ticketing, J4MW will undertake numerous steps to protect the welfare of migrant farm workers. Pandemics and crises do not impact all of us equally. As we are seeing almost daily, vulnerable communities are subjected to heightened levels of criminalization and surveillance. This will not be tolerated and we will take any and all steps so that the state and law enforcement do not disproportionately exercise their newly enacted powers on migrants deemed an essential workforce in Ontario yet denied every form of protection that Ontarians enjoy.

For further information please e-mail j4mw.on@gmail.com

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