J4MW Statement in Solidarity with Palestine

As a collective that organizes around migrant workers’ rights – organizing that transcends so-called borders and is inherently transnational in its scope – we stand firmly in solidarity with Palestine. We denounce the settler-colonial violence enacted by the state of Israel in every form it takes, and condemn the loss of civilian lives through the 75 year-long occupation. We strongly support Palestinians in their struggle for liberation.

Palestinians have been subject to over 75 years of occupation and apartheid at the hands of the state of Israel, with the colonial theft of their lands, the monitoring and policing of Palestinians’ movement, and limited access to basic human rights. Over the past three weeks, we have witnessed an active campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide happening in Gaza, with state violence being enacted in unthinkable ways – through the denial of humanitarian aid, deprivation of food and water, and mass forced displacement. 

Over the past two weeks, we have witnessed Palestinians being framed in ways that conjure up images of barbarism and less-than-humanness. The settler-colonial state uses every possible tactic to strip the oppressed of their humanity in order to justify its own violence.  

Moreover, much like Canada, Israel relies on exploitative state structures that extract labor from “developing” countries, bringing in temporary foreign workers to prop up an agricultural industry built on stolen land to further displace and povertize Palestnians. At least 30,000 migrant farm workers from countries like Thailand, the Philippines, and Nepal live and work on farms across Israel — including many adjacent to the Gaza Strip. Over the past two weeks, at least 50 migrant workers have been killed. We condemn the deaths of these workers at the hands of a settler-colonial state, because by virtue of its foreign worker program, the Israeli state alone bears responsibility for the workers’ lives and livelihoods. 

One in four hostages are foreign workers. Israel’s bombardment of Gaza endangering their lives is further evidence of the callousness of this settler-colonial state towards these racialised, vulnerable, and invisibilized workers – workers whose labour is deemed essential to the Israeli economy, but whose lives are seen as disposable. We call for the protection of migrant workers everywhere — a community of people consistently pushed to the margins through these inherently violent processes of colonial and imperial dominion. 

These are the same structures of settler-colonial violence that form the very foundation of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). As a collective that strives to advance the rights of migrant workers in this program, we recognize that colonialism is not a relic of the past. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program functions as an extension of the colonial project, with the Canadian settler-colonial state actively exploiting and profiting off of the labour of Black, Brown, and Indigenous workers from the so-called “Global South.” Within the structures of the TFWP, these bodies are brutalized, dehumanized, and devalued.

As a collective of organizers who believe in transforming our food system into one rooted in food justice, we would be remiss to not draw the connections between Israel’s state violence enacted on migrant farm workers and the state’s continued attacks on Palestinian food sovereignty. For over 75 years, Israel has controlled Palestine’s food systems — uprooting olive trees, banning traditional farming practices, and denying residents access to clean drinking water. Food sovereignty is deeply linked to land sovereignty, and we affirm Palestinians in their fight for power over their own food system, and their struggle for Indigenous land and water rights. 

We believe that all struggles for liberation in the face of oppression are deeply intertwined. To continue building meaningful movements, it is critical that we understand how systems of power here are directly connected to the structures that oppress across seas. The same government that dehumanizes and exploits migrant farm workers here in Canada is complicit in the ongoing violence in Palestine. 

We strongly condemn the retributive, McCarthyist tactics we’ve seen in response to public support for Palestinian liberation. We call for an end to the ongoing aggressive censorship of voices supporting Palestinian liberation, particularly the voices of marginalized workers and students, whose precarious status in Canada makes them vulnerable to deportation and repatriation at the will of the federal government. 

Echoing the demands from our comrades in Palestine, we call for a ceasefire, and an end to all settler-colonial occupation and violence. We implore our networks of folks who have spoken up about migrant workers’ rights here in Canada to take action for Palestinian liberation. Writing to your elected representatives to call for a ceasefire, showing up at actions, and donating to emergency response initiatives on the ground are just a few ways you can support the struggle against settler-colonial violence in Palestine. Additionally, we urge our networks to show continued solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle against Zionist colonialism, including supporting boycott, divest, and sanctions campaigns and actions.

Follow Palestinian voices and supporters of Palestinian liberation here:


Open letter from a group of Brantford workers to PM and CARICOM leaders

As leaders of CARICOM meet with Canadian officials in Ottawa during their annual summit, J4MW strongly critiques the absences of labour discussions at this week’s summit. 

Collectively, CARICOM leaders send thousands of workers to work on Canadian farms and other industries. These workers have been raising concerns about their working conditions for decades and yet little has changed. 

J4MW takes this opportunity to share the following open letter from a group of Caribbean migrant farm workers employed under the Commonwealth Seasonal Agricultural Workers program. 

From the workers:

We are a group of workers from a farm near Brantford, Ontario. We are the ones growing the food that Canadians eat, and the food that is shipped outside of Canada to make profits for farmers. We worked Thanksgiving, like we do every other day, and we were not paid extra money. We have left our children, spouses, parents, siblings, friends and other loved ones to come here. The money we make supports their lives, education, and well-being. We are here working in Canada so they can have better lives. 

We want to share what we have experienced at this farm during our time working in Canada. We are all workers who are trying to make a better life, but it’s like we are doing worse in Canada because it’s no better than what we left back home. You have to work very hard to get the money. We feel bad because of the way we are being treated. We are supposed to work like animals, like we don’t have enough time to work. We have to go to the extreme. If all of us clock out, it’s going to be a problem. 

It’s not fair that we come here on a tied permit. We want a better system, not a closed permit. It’s not fair that we sign a contract to work but our employer can decide to send us home at any time. Some of us have already been sent home and new people have been brought up instead.


We have complained many times about the housing. It is not just one bunkhouse that has problems. One of our bunkhouses had waste water overflowing and going through the bunkhouse, even into the kitchen. Our employer did nothing about it for several days, and even came into our bunkhouse and yelled at us for causing the problem. He said that we must have poured grease down the drain for this to happen. 

He only did something when we decided not to go to work. But even after that problem was fixed, it came back again. It is very disrespectful to expect us to live like this and go to work without any complaint.

There has recently been a bedbug infestation at another bunkhouse. Bedbugs are not new at this farm and we know they have been infesting bunkhouses here for many years. Even though the liaison got involved, they cannot do anything if our employer doesn’t want to do anything. The employer only gave us some traps and sprays. We know this does not help the problem because there was an infestation when we first came to the farm earlier this year, and he did the same thing. We were getting bitten regularly. There were bumps on our skin and we felt itchy. We were worried that we could get sick, and that the bedbugs could spread to other bunkhouses since we are all working together in the fields. 

Finally the employer brought someone to treat the bedbugs, but the day after that Service Canada came to the farm. We think that this is why the employer brought someone. The bedbugs came back after that.

Working at this Farm

If we get sick at work, it’s like it doesn’t matter to them. They don’t pay us any sick days and don’t help us if we are sick. They have not given us a health card yet and they have taken away our work permits and employment contracts. 

The boss is very disrespectful. He wants us to do whatever he says. When he says to jump, he wants us to jump. Our words don’t matter to him. He has a very rude attitude and does not respect us or the work that we do.

We have been prevented from using the bathroom because it is “company policy” to go only on breaks. But sometimes we are not able to go to the bathroom even on our breaks because we are being moved from field to field. 

The drinking water and bathing water at the farm is not safe. Sometimes it smells bad, like wastewater. 

It has been very hot to work in the fields. But this employer still makes us work the same long shifts without any extra breaks, no water, no shade or cool areas. They don’t care that we are getting dizzy, or fainting, or ill. They just want us to work.

We feel very bad about the guys who have been sent home because they would like to make money, just like those of us who are here on the farm. The fact that they have been sent home, and replaced with other workers, is really rough. This farm, the boss, they don’t really care about us. They just care about making money. We just have to sit like animals and listen to what they say, and just do it. 

It is not easy but if us workers see a chance for things to get better, we have to come together and unite. It can’t just be one person. We should come and talk about it, not just leave it aside and go home. We have to stand together as one, so we can unite and get better. 

We are all one nation. We have different skin but we are brothers in our own image and colour. We want the same for everyone. We have to be there for one another. If there is a problem we have to come together and talk about it, and go on a strike. If we are not getting good pay, we can strike out and it can maybe get better. 

We came to this country to get better – we came for more than this low-paying job. We should have the ability to work in a place that treats us with respect. We are no different than the generations of migrant workers that came before us. 


  1. We want to have better housing. We want housing where we have enough bedrooms for everyone, enough bathrooms so that everyone has privacy. We want housing where we do not have bedbugs or any other pests. We want clean bunkhouses with functioning appliances – stoves, fridges, microwaves, washers and dryers. We do not want to live in barns with concrete floors. We want to live in proper houses.
  2. We want to be treated with respect at work. We do not want to be yelled at, sworn at, or to get in trouble for using the bathroom. We are not children.
  3. We want the ability to choose where we work and our working conditions. Some of us have been working the night shift for weeks and cannot speak with our families. Some of us want to stay and work at other farms when our contracts end. We want the ability to move to other employers and stay if we want to. It is not fair that we have to work for one employer alone in Canada.
  4. We want to be able to speak up for our rights without getting in trouble and without being sent home. Some of our brothers have already been sent home after we refused to work, when our bunkhouse was flooded with waste water. All workers who have spoken out should not be removed from the program and should not get in trouble in any way.


A group of workers

Open Letter Re: Heat Stress

September 8, 2023

TO: Doug Ford
Premier of Ontario
Premier’s Office,
Room 281 Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto ON M7A 1A1

AND TO: Monte McNaughton
Minister of Labour. Immigration, Training and Skills Development
14th Floor, 400 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M7A 1T7

Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is reiterating its previous demand that the provincial government implements immediate emergency protections for the tens of thousands of agricultural workers employed in Ontario.

On July 6th, 2023, J4MW released a public statement imploring the provincial government to take immediate actions to protect farm workers. The government responded stating that migrant farm workers were “heroes” who are protected by health and safety laws, “regardless of their passport.” In a second statement, the provincial government noted that “employers and supervisors have a duty to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker, including protection in hot environments.” 

This government must heed warnings from greenhouse workers such as Gilberto who are raising the flag regarding the impact of heat stress in their workplace. He says: 

I am from Guatemala, I have been working for the same company for 8 years. My family has a lot of needs, that is why I work under a guest program in Canada. I work in the nursery growing peppers.There is no drinking water available in the nursery, but the problem is that it contains a lot of chemicals, that is why we have to buy our own water. During the whole year, our employer gives us only one small water bottle, and that is not enough. There is a ventilation system in place, but it is simply not enough when the temperatures are too high.

Thank God nobody has fallen ill from the heat yet, but that is because people stop working if the heat is too much for them. The farm owner tells us to stop working if we can’t work in the heat, but the problem is that if we don’t work then we don’t make any money, so we have to endure the high temperatures.

The heat gets so bad that during our work, our clothes get soaked in our own sweat, and we have to constantly wring out our clothes so we can get rid of the sweat. It is horrible. I understand that there is nothing the employer can do to change the temperature, but he could give us as much clean and cold water as we want. The nursery owner could also pay us wages when we need to stop work because of the heat. We are not asking for much, just that we are treated the same as the citizens of the U.S or Canada, because they have no problems taking taxes from us without giving us the same rights.

Johnathon, a migrant worker from Trinidad and Tobago, also raises concerns regarding the extreme heat levels:

Hello, I would like to share a bit on  what my co-workers and myself are facing at the farm located in the Haldimand Norfolk region.. My name is Johnathon and I’ve been working in Canada’s agricultural fields for almost 12 yrs. I’ve harvested a lot of fruits and vegetables over the years. Apples, carrots, tomatoes and many others. I love it here in Canada but there are alot of serious issues and ill treatment farm workers face that no one is aware of and also the weather conditions we  have to work in. I’m almost certain 70-80% of Canada’s agricultural sector comes from the work of migrant workers, yet enough isn’t being done for us. My co-workers and I even had to work in temperatures of 38-45 degrees when a heat warning is in effect. 

A lot of us are afraid to raise any attention or speak out because we would be victimize or not be requested back to work the following year in Canada if we did. A few days ago whilst harvesting apples approximately around 2pm, management told the bin operators to remove the bins of apples out of the fields because they were getting sunburn. We honestly couldn’t believe it, so we said amongst ourselves, if the apples can get sunburn, what about us who are there working in bare heat with no shelter. A lot of workers that are on farms work in conditions that a normal Canadian citizen will never do. 

It affects us a lot both physically and mentally. Not because we are not beaten or whipped, we are being treated well. Employers also control farm workers mentally, by having us afraid to speak out, because we know that if we do, we would no longer be employed or be able to come to Canada to provide for our families. I’m hoping that the Government of Ontario and  Canada look into the major issues and problems along with the conditions that workers face on an everyday basis.

Thank you

The Ford government must end its inaction and enact protections to address occupational health and safety hazards such as heat stress, poor air quality, and chemical and pesticide exposure. Ontario provides no industry-specific regulations for agricultural workers, exacerbating an already crisis-level situation. To continue this inaction, to ignore the voices of farm workers and to subject a predominantly racialized workforce to differential treatment is the classic definition of environmental racism.

Farmworkers are raising the alarm regarding the hazards of air quality as well as the sweltering heat both in greenhouses and in the fields. Several workers have raised fears of the long term consequences of poor air quality resulting from the forest fires. Other workers are demanding action against the sweltering heat and potential health implications.

Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is demanding the implementation of emergency measures including:

  • Workers who work in the heat must be central and key decision makers in any proposed regulations regarding heat stress;
  • Shutting down farms and paying workers in extreme crisis events;
  • Paying workers when they are not employed as a result of climate-related issues such as forest fires, extreme heat, major thunderstorms and heavy rain;
  • Enacting heat stress protections for workers that are enacted in the interest of workers;
  • Strengthening anti-reprisal measures and proactive inspections;
  • Implementing paid breaks and providing permanent paid sick days for agricultural workers;
  • Providing sufficient shelters, functioning bathrooms and drinking water for workers at the expense of the employer;
  • Providing first aid, hydration stations, and on-site medical support (RN or RPNs);
  • Permitting third party complaints at the Ontario Labour Relations Board;
  • Ending agricultural exclusions under the Employment Standards Act;
  • Incorporating race and gender analysis in both occupational health and safety and employment standards;
  • Ensuring that agricultural harvesters are being paid holiday pay;
  • Implementing clear trigger temperatures for extreme heat and humidity, including indoor temperatures (e.g., greenhouses); 
  • Preventive measures to avoid overheating that include: specific requirements for shade, acclimatization for new and returning workers, mandatory cool-down rest periods during high temperatures, along with access to preventive cool-down measures as needed;
  • Extend OSHA protections to cover agricultural worker accommodations;
  • Implement protections for both extreme heat and extreme cold temperature. 

Ford has the necessary tools to address long standing issues raised by farm workers. These are not new issues. It’s time to act. Immediate and urgent measures are required to end the structural violence farm workers endure as a result of legal exclusions that exist within Ontario’s legislative framework.

J4MW also reiterates our longstanding demands for: permanent status on arrival for migrant farm workers, an end to unilateral repatriations and disbarment, and equal access to entitlements such as EI and CPP.

Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is an all volunteer collective that consists of current and former workers, labour and community activists and scholars who advocate for fairness, dignity and respect for agricultural workers.

J4MW responds to recent changes to the Agri-Food Pilot Project

The Canadian government recently announced changes to the Agri-Food Pilot Project. Changes include

-Expanding open work permit access to family members of all participants in the Agri-Food Pilot regardless of the participant’s job skill level
-Allowing unions to attest to a candidate’s work experience, as an alternative to employer reference letters
-Giving applicants residing in Canada the option to either meet the job offer requirement, including the median wage requirement for the job offer, or the education requirement, including educational credential assessment verification
-Accepting work experience gained under an open work permit for vulnerable workers, giving more workers an opportunity to qualify

Although the extension of the program, and these changes, claim to provide ‘an opportunity for more eligible candidates to apply,’ they will not address long-standing, deep-rooted structural issues in Canada’s agricultural industry. As the number of agricultural workers in Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program is set to balloon to approximately 70,000 workers, no concrete steps have been undertaken to address the power imbalance that exists between workers and bosses. Non-seasonal migrant agricultural workers, who constitute a significant number of migrants in the agricultural industry, will continue to be excluded from the Agri-Food Pilot.

Justice for Migrant Workers (J4WM) maintains that a pathways system where workers are tied to one employer continues to perpetuate an indentured labour scheme in Canada’s plantation system. While J4MW welcomes the inclusion of labour unions to attest a candidate’s work experience, in provinces such as Ontario, where the majority of migrant agricultural workers are employed, farm workers are excluded from the right to organize and the right to collective bargaining and so this is of little consequence to such farm workers.

The power imbalance means that workers are prevented from exercising their rights against wage theft, dangerous and deadly working conditions, deplorable housing, and the racial and gendered dimensions of employment under the TFWP. In addition, workers successful in obtaining a Vulnerable Open Work Permit (VOWP) continue to face multiple challenges including: time limited open permits, the inability to find employer-specific work permits, stigma associated with having this type of permit from employers, and an absence of employment support. The federal government has not undertaken any steps to address the myriad of issues raised by VOWP permit holders.

The Agri-Food Pilot feeds into Canada’s mammoth immigration industrial complex whereby the majority of agricultural workers will be exempt from the scope of this program. The costs associated with the pilot put it out of reach for most workers. Aside from exorbitant legal costs, there are multiple application fees that workers and their families must pay including: $850 to process the application and an additional $515 if an applicant is successful. For applicants who want to include their partners, it is an additional $1365, and $230 for each dependent child. This however does not include biometrics, the cost of educational assessments (for applicants who do not meet the job offer requirement), settlement funds (for applicants who are not currently working), and language tests.

J4MW has previously raised criticisms regarding the racially coded nature of the Agri-Food Pilot. This includes the discriminatory nature of language proficiency tests and the exclusion of seasonal workers, thus excluding most participants of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

Canada continues to profit off of a racially-segmented labour market. The Agri-Food Pilot masks the realities that exist for farm workers. Immediate steps must be taken to ensure that workers are not tied to an employer and are accorded permanent status on arrival. Canada is simply perpetuating its long standing discriminatory practices of creating a white and wealthy elite off the sacrifices and labour of Black and Brown workers. It is shameful and appalling that we are expected to accept these types of programs when we know that many of the settlers in this country have had no such barriers – whether financially, or in terms of language, job offer, or educational requirements.

The Canadian government continues to drive a racial wedge between agricultural workers by implementing divisive pathways schemes that exclude the majority of migrant agricultural workers employed in Canada. It is imperative that the exclusion of SAWP workers and seasonal TFW workers be strongly condemned. Residency should not be incumbent on the profits of corporations but rather building communities premised on inclusion, fairness and dignity.

Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is a volunteer collective of activists from diverse walks of life (including current and former migrant workers, community, labour activists, educators, researchers, students and youth of colour) based in Toronto, Ontario.

21 Migrant Injured Farm Workers call the WSIB President to demand accountability and change on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination


On March 21st, Injured Workers Action for Justice (IWA4J) and Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW) organized an action to support injured workers in their demand for immediate change to the racist and discriminatory treatment they receive by the WSIB.

Check out the full press release and photos from our action below!


March 21th, 2023

CALLING FOR ACTION: 21 Migrant Injured Farm Workers call the WSIB President to demand accountability and change on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

On March 21, 2023, Injured Workers Action for Justice (IWA4J) and Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW) will be organizing an action to support injured workers in their demand for immediate change to the racist and discriminatory treatment they receive by the WSIB.

In recognition of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this March 21st, 21 migrant injured workers will be calling the WSIB President to tell their stories of how the WSIB process is racist and worsens the physical, mental and emotional state of workers who have suffered a workplace injury.

Last year these same workers wrote an open letter to demand change to Ontario’s discriminatory workers’ compensation system and the systemic racism they face at the WSIB. Since that letter there has been zero change and zero accountability from the WSIB. This year workers will be calling in to the WSIB because many migrant injured workers are no longer here in Canada. Following a workplace injury, many migrant injured workers are repatriated and forced to recover from their injuries back in their home country. Canada’s racist immigration laws and the WSIB’s discriminatory practices make injured workers feel powerless by isolating them and breaking up injured worker communities. Workers understand this and instead are building power through transnational solidarity and actions. Injured workers’ support and solidarity knows no borders.

On the call to the WSIB president, workers will speak on two main issues: their horrific experiences of improper health care support and the racist reality of the practice of “deeming” workers.

The WSIB Must Provide Real Healthcare for Injured Workers

Because of exploitation and unsafe labour practices, migrant workers are at heightened risk of becoming injured on the job.

Once injured, many injured workers, and especially migrant injured workers, face difficulties with improper health care support as they recover from their workplace injury. The WSIB does not provide proper funding of medical treatments and medications that are necessary for workers to recover properly. The WSIB also does not listen to the recommendations that healthcare providers provide to injured workers. Instead, they often override a worker’s doctor’s recommendation with their own doctor’s opinion. This opinion does not benefit the worker because the WSIB’s doctors have not established a strong clinical relationship with the worker. In fact, the WSIB doctors’ opinions are often given without them even meeting the injured worker.

For migrant injured workers, many of whom are racialized, these issues are magnified. Following injury, migrant workers are often forced back to their home country by their employer. The WSIB does not provide them with supports that would allow them to stay in Canada to receive proper healthcare. Instead migrant injured workers are forced to find treatment on their own in their home country. Often these countries do not have accessible healthcare for workers to help them recover from the complex injuries they suffered working here in Canada.

The reality is that once a migrant worker is injured, Canada and the WSIB often force them deeper into poverty and downloads all healthcare and worker compensation onto the backs of people in the Global South.

The WSIB Must Abolish the Shameful and Racist Practice of “Deeming”

The practice of deeming allows the WSIB to cut injured workers’ benefits by pretending (or “deeming”) that they are working and making money in a suitable job in Ontario. This practice of cutting benefits using fake wages by the WSIB makes injured workers feel disposable and drives many injured workers into poverty. This unfair and make-believe practice is even worse for migrant workers.  For migrant injured workers these Ontario jobs are not actually available to them because they have been repatriated and forced back home.

For interviews and additional information, please contact:

  • Sang-Hun Mun (Injured Workers Action 4 Justice):
    • Tel: 647-832-1514 /E-mail: iwaction4j@gmail.com
  • Chris Ramsaroop (Justicia 4 Migrant Workers):
    • Tel: 647-834-4932 / E-mail: j4mw.on@gmail.com 




VICTORY: Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario finds that police engaged in racial discrimination against migrant farmworkers during DNA sweep

TORONTO – On Monday, August 15, 2022, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) delivered a historic ruling following a 9-year legal battle between 54 migrant farm workers, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), and the Ministry of the Solicitor General.

The underlying incident stemmed from a October 2013 sexual assault that occurred near the community of Bayham, Ontario. As part of its investigation into the incident, the OPP conducted a DNA sweep to collect samples from dozens of migrant farmworkers employed in the region.

The HRTO’s 64-page ruling is the first human rights case of its kind in Canada to examine allegations of systemic racial profiling and discrimination by the police towards migrant farmworkers. The decision details how the police exploited systemic vulnerabilities experienced by participants of the the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, and involved the workers’ employers during the investigation. It was found that Leon Logan (the lead applicant for the group) and his fellow workers were targeted solely on the basis of their skin colour and their status as migrant farmworkers, and that DNA samples were obtained from them even if they had alibis or did not match the suspect description.

The Tribunal found that the police’s conduct during the DNA sweep was contrary to section 1 of Ontario’s Human Rights Code, and that it violated Mr. Logan’s right to be free from discrimination by improperly targeting him on the basis of his race, skin colour, and place of origin. Damages in the amount of $7,500 were ordered for Mr. Logan. The parties have also reached an agreement between them which will provide a pathway for the remaining 53 applicants to receive the same award granted to Mr. Logan, resulting in a potential aggregate damages award of $405,000. A subsequent hearing to address public interest remedies remains to be scheduled, where the applicants will seek an order that their DNA samples be destroyed and that the OPP be required to develop a policy that ensures DNA sweeps are compliant with the Human Rights Code.

Chris Ramsaroop of Justicia 4 Migrant Workers (J4MW) observes that “This is a significant victory by a group of courageous workers whose strength in numbers and a burning desire for change lead to today’s victory. These workers fought and will continue to fight to end criminalization, and racist police practices. This isn’t about a few bad apples though; the entire system is rotten to its core.”

Shane Martinez, the lawyer representing the 54 migrant farmworkers who brought the case, states “While this decision represents a landmark victory, it also reminds us of the significant work that remains to be done to understand and combat anti-Black racism and its impact on migrant farmworkers across Canada. The oppression and exploitation endured by tens of thousands of racialized migrant farmworkers in this country is a shameful part of both Canadian history and our present-day reality.”

For interviews and additional information, please contact:

  • Chris Ramsaroop (Justicia 4 Migrant Workers): Tel: 647-834-4932 / E-mail: j4mw.on@gmail.com 
  • Shane Martínez (Lawyer for the 54 Migrant Farmworkers): Tel: 647-717-8111 / E-mail: shane@martinezlaw.ca 

Please click here for the pdf version of our press release.

Click here for a link to the full legal decision.


“A police request for DNA from a person for forensic analysis as a method to investigate a crime, even when the request is voluntary, is a significant intrusion on one’s personal privacy and places a high degree of scrutiny on a person.” [para 94]

“In conducting the DNA canvass in the manner it did, the migrant workers’ vulnerabilities, which are rooted in the intersectionality of Code grounds raised in the Application, likely helped the OPP obtain the consent of Mr. Logan and the other migrant workers to provide their DNA sample.” [para 158]

“[M]igrant workers are tied to a single employer under the SAWP and employers are empowered to fire and deport migrant workers without reason at any time, creating a power imbalance in the employment relationship.” [para 159; accepting the expert evidence of Dr. Jenna Hennebry]

“[M]ost SAWP workers are men from poor households who often have low levels of education, are socially isolated due to the structure of the SAWP, and face systemic barriers in protecting their legal rights and accessing justice.” [para 159; accepting the expert evidence of Dr. Jenna Hennebry]

“It is highly significant evidence that the police organized the DNA canvass of the migrant workers with the assistance of their employers and on the employers’ property.” [para 166]

“If the DNA canvass was discriminatory and in violation of the Code, the success of the DNA canvass does not justify the conduct. In other words, the end cannot justify the means.” [para 177]

“In the context of these migrant workers who visibly stand out, and are a clearly differentiated minority group from this rural White community, one can readily see from this evidence how relying solely or predominantly on their migrant worker status in selecting them for investigation of a crime when additional information was available, subjected them to over-investigation by police.” [para 193]

Join us for a community delegation on the National Day of Mourning

This Thursday, April 28, 2022, is the National Day of Mourning for workers who have gotten killed, sick or injured at work.

We mourn the dead and fight for the living.

If you are in Toronto, please join us at 1:00pm on 28 April at 400 University Ave (the Ministry of Labour). Alongside IAVGO and the Injured Workers Action for Justice, we’ll deliver an open letter from injured workers and survivors of workplace deaths to Labour Minister Monte McNaughton, demanding justice and calling on him to ensure protection for all workers.

For more information, please email j4mw.on@gmail.com. Check out the Facebook event here.

Here is our open letter with IAVGO and IWA4J.

Please also read this letter from Juan (pseudonym), a migrant farmworker with stage 4 cancer who was exposed to pesticides on the job.

 Open Letter from Injured Workers: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination


March 21, 2022

Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
Langevin Block, 80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A2                                                                 justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca

Hon. Sean Fraser
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship                                            Confederation Building, Suite 110
House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6                                                  sean.fraser@parl.gc.ca

Hon. Doug Ford
Premier of Ontario,
Legislative Building Queen’s Park, Toronto, Ontario, M7A 1A1    doug.fordco@pc.ola.org

Hon. Monte McNaughton,
Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development
400 University Ave, Toronto, ON M7A 1T7                       monte.mcnaughtonco@pc.ola.org

Jeffery Lang
WSIB President & CEO
200 Front Street
Toronto, ON M5V 3J1

 Open Letter: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

We are a diverse grassroots group of injured migrant farm workers and allies who have been fighting for fair compensation and respect from the WSIB (Workplace & Safety Insurance Board) for all workers. We want changes to the system to help, not hinder, the lives of injured workers.

On March 21st, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we, injured migrant workers formerly employed by Canada’s temporary foreign worker program, want to bring to light the conditions that we have faced as a result of becoming injured or sick.  We believe that the workers’ compensation system is racist and that we are treated very badly. This systemic racism does not treat us like we are human. There are power differences between us as workers and our bosses. The system is set up for the bosses, not for us. Our voices are not taken seriously. It is like the system believes the bosses rather than us when we are telling the impact of our injuries. We are treated like we are lying; neither our injuries nor our pain are seen as serious. Rather than let us heal, the bosses send us back to work while we are still injured and in pain. It’s like we must beg for benefits that we are entitled to.

We face racism because of our complexion and our status as migrants. We are considered disposable to the WSIB, the government of Canada, employers, and our liaisons. We have been verbally, physically, mentally, and emotionally abused. Rather than helping us heal, the current system makes it worse for us. We have been denied the right to function as humans in Canada. For those of us who have been repatriated, we are returning to our home countries with injuries and traumas. We pay upfront for our transportation, our healthcare, and our medicine to come to Canada, but we must beg friends and family members after we get injured in Canada when we should rightfully be getting benefits from WSIB in Canada. Our work injuries suffered in Canada put us in further debt. This is not fair. Many of us suffer high blood pressure, stress and anxiety because we cannot pay our bills. In many cases, we miss our medical appointments, which means we get more sick.

It is WSIB that is in charge, which holds the responsibility when a worker gets injured on the job in Canada. Because of the systemic racism, WSIB is failing injured migrant workers. The injured people are finding it hard to communicate with the WSIB caseworkers on the phone, even when our medical information is placed on their desks or on computers. The injured people are re-traumatized on top of what they have already been through, which leads to even more depression and frustration. There needs to be a system in place to investigate when the WSIB is not doing their job. Our lives are in misery and it’s taking a toll on our children’s education and their well being due to poverty, separation, no access to health care, mental break down, and so many more issues. Our health and safety must not be put in jeopardy. The WSIB system must change so that we receive the same protections that other Canadian nonfarm workers receive. We should not be penalized for standing up for our rights or refusing dangerous working conditions. It is not right that the laws do not protect us for the essential work we do while in Canada.

In the WSIB system, there are no rights for injured migrant workers. They are biased in the way they treat workers and also biased in the compensation injured workers get. Injured migrants cannot get to see a proper doctor nor do they have the money to pay for it. However, WSIB is giving so-called “surplus” money to employers that is should rightfully be going to injured workers and our families. This money should be returned to us so we can take care of our families. When our families are sick, we cannot take care of them, nor can we send our children to school. It is outrageous for WSIB to reward those employers rather than fix the system that has left injured workers in crisis. We are angry, we are in pain, and our lives have been forever changed because of our work injuries. We don’t want nice words, nor do we want pity. We want justice. We want the system to change. We want to receive the medical treatment we deserve and the benefits that make sure we are not given a death sentence. We want a system that helps us, not traumatize us further.

We will not be silent and we will not give up. We will continue fighting with all workers, past or present, who have been mistreated by the WSIB. We will continue to fight for our families, our children, our co-workers, and future generations of workers so that they do not suffer the same pain and suffering that we have faced. Our struggle is for all migrant workers, whatever country you are from or whatever language you speak. Our struggle is for the betterment of Canadian workers and migrant workers alike. We will not accept racial mistreatment because we are black or brown.

We urge both federal and provincial governments’ immediate actions to protect all workers.  The following demands will provide immediate support and a safety net to the workers and families of workers who have been killed, injured and got sick at work:

  • The Canadian government must provide permanent immigration status for all undocumented and migrant workers, status on arrival, status when injured, and no one should be deported. The federal program recently proposed is grossly inadequate to allow more than a tiny fraction of farm workers and other essential workers to qualify. That’s not enough at all. All workers, including those injured workers must be allowed to stay and access justice and health care in Canada.

The Ontario government:

  • Abolish Bill 27, Schedule 6, Working for Workers Act, 2021: Absolutely, this does not work for workers. Immediately return the WSIB Surplus to Injured Workers, not to employers.
  • End the WSIB practice “deeming” (phantom jobs) and provide benefits when injured workers are not able to get a job or no job is available in the market, especially those undocumented and migrant workers who are already deported to their countries, but systemically deemed in 12 weeks without any benefits. The WSIB says they can continue working as a cashier, gas bar attendant, or a call centre worker in Ontario. This is not acceptable.
  • Real Healthcare for Injured Workers: Based on the “Bad Medicine” report (IAVGO,  2017), the WSIB payment of drug benefits decreased 35% ($33M) from $96M in 2010 to  $63M in 2015 while the new claims entering the system are consistent during that period. It says, “About 18,000 injured workers per year have disappeared from the drug benefits program, with no viable explanation from the WSIB.” However, the WSIB’s own Annual Financial Reports confirmed that the benefits paid out to injured workers’ were cut in half from 2010 to 2015. The WSIB should provide health care injured workers  need and fund medical treatments and medication our doctors prescribe, especially for  those workers and migrant workers injured in precarious workplaces and repatriated to  their countries with no medical attention.
  • Change the WSIB law to listen injured workers treating healthcare providers’ recommendations regarding the injured workers’ health care and health & safety about time to heal and return to work instead of wasting money to the WSIB paper doctors to override injured workers’ doctors’ recommendation. Also, eliminate pre-existing conditions or age-related degeneration in the WSIB policy. Researchers and injured workers’ advocates said that these conditions had not affected worker’s ability to do the job or had shown no symptoms (were asymptomatic).

Both Federal and Ontario governments:

  • Work together to fully investigate all work-related deaths and health & safety conditions (abuse/harassments, work injuries, bunkhouse, PPE, safety equipment), including on SAWP (Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program) and TFWP (Temporary Foreign Workers Program), also reinforce all legal requirements that employers must be responsible for unsafe work environments and held accountable for any violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
  • Provide social assistance benefits with a real living-cost increase and implement a new Canada disability income benefit for people with disabilities to sustain their life. Any social safety net should be available to everyone who needs it regardless of immigration status. Review access and data requests on EI/CPP/CPPD/WSIB/Social assistance (ODSP/OW) programs accesses for migrant workers, to determine how many workers are facing the systemic issues.

We as injured migrant farm workers and communities are united and organizing together to make sure that there are implemented and followed by our representatives in both governments. We will continue working with our allies and people in the communities to help our representatives do their jobs to protect all workers during this critical time. We urge both governments’ immediate response and actions.

Please contact your MPP and MP (clink the hyperlink to find yours) to protect all workers. We stand in solidarity with all migrants and people of colour in the world against racism.

An injury to one is an injury to all!

Injured Migrant Farm Workers

 Contact us for more info:

Email: iwaction4J@gmail.com

Bad Medicine & No Evidence Reports: https://www.fairnessforinjuredworkers.org/

Real Healthcare for Injured Workers Campaign: https://iavgo.org/get-involved/

#CoverOurCare: https://twitter.com/IWA4Justice

#WorkersCompIsARight: https://injuredworkersonline.org/workers-comp-is-a-right-campaign

March 1 – Final arguments to be heard in historic human rights hearing on race-based DNA canvass by the OPP

Poster with fists on peach background: Final arguments in Ontario migrant workers' historic human rights hearing on racist policing practices

For immediate distribution
February 28, 2022

Final arguments to be heard in historic human rights hearing on race-based DNA canvass by the OPP

TORONTO – At 9:30am ET on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) will be hearing final arguments in a historic and potentially precedent-setting case involving 54 migrant farm workers.

In October 2013, after a sexual assault that occurred near the community of Bayham, Ontario, the OPP conducted a DNA sweep to collect samples from approximately 95 migrant farm workers employed in the region. The OPP conducted its investigation with what appeared to be a total disregard for the detailed suspect description that it had obtained from the victim. DNA samples were taken from Indo and Afro-Caribbean men from Jamaican and Trinidad. Their ages ranged from 22 to 68, their heights ranged from 5’2” to 6’6”, and their body sizes ranged between 110 lbs to 328 lbs. Other identifying features were also disregarded. Workers were targeted solely on the basis of their skin colour and their status as migrant farmworkers.

54 of the migrant farmworkers who were impacted came together to jointly file human rights applications with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Starting at 9:30am and ending at approximately 1:30pm on Tuesday, March 1st, final arguments will be heard with respect to the issue of liability and damages.  The Applicants will reiterate that the DNA sweep and the manner in which it was conducted was racial discrimination that violated their rights under section 1 of Ontario’s Human Rights Code. If the OPP is found to have violated the Code, a further hearing will be scheduled to address non-monetary and systemic remedies to prevent a re-occurrence of this type of incident.

This is the first human rights case of its kind in Canada to examine allegations of systemic racial profiling and discrimination by the police towards migrant farmworkers. It is anticipated that it will expose not only the inherent vulnerabilities that workers are exposed to under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, but also how those vulnerabilities were exploited by the police in their execution of the 2013 DNA sweep.

Please show your support for workers by joining the virtual hearing. Label yourself as “observer” so the tribunal knows you are not a participant): http://bit.ly/MigrantDNA

For interviews and more information, please contact:

  • Chris Ramsaroop (Justicia 4 Migrant Workers): Tel: 647-834-4932 / E-mail: j4mw.on@gmail.com
  • Shane Martínez (Lawyer for the 54 Migrant Farmworkers): Tel: 647-717-8111 / E-mail: shane@martinezlaw.ca

Climate justice for migrants and EI: Our letter to the federal government

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Qualtrough, Minister Bibeau, and Minister Fraser,

Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW)  writes to reiterate that migrant workers must receive full and equal access to Canada’s Employment Insurance (“EI”) benefit. Since 1966, workers employed under the auspices of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program have contributed millions of dollars in benefits. However, as a result of their tied work permits, they have been denied access to our social safety net in their time of need.

We support the call for better access, improving benefit rates and a new annual federal contribution to EI. Our demands are as follows:

  1. Permanent status on arrival
  2. No worker should face reprisals, repatriation, or disbarment for accessing benefits or exerting their rights.
  3. Expedite the EI process and ensure migrant and non-status workers are able to get benefits;
  4. Open permits immediately, access to training, and access to employment supports so that workers are not trapped in this situation in the future;
  5. Review access and data requests on EI access for migrant workers, to determine how many workers are facing the same issue;
  6. Treat all migrants in this situation as one workplace and implement a dedicated unit to support workers in these situations. Also, for the future, create a separate sub-department to address EI for migrant farm workers to increase accessibility through an easy streamlined process and to expedite the process;
  7. One of the sub-department’s duties must be consultation with migrant farm worker advocates so that the sub-department knows about and can immediately respond to crisis situations like the ones we have brought to the federal government;
  8. The EI system should be available with “no questions asked” so that individuals are able to access the benefits they have paid into;
  9. Reverse all decisions denying regular EI benefits to migrant farm workers, that were made on the basis that they were unavailable to work because of their work permit status. Award benefits to all workers who have applied immediately;
  10. Ensure that migrant workers are provided all entitlements under our EI system including access to paid training and education programs.
  11. Develop and implement a clear EI access policy that operates on the presumption that migrant agricultural workers are looking for alternate work, and makes their entitlement to EI separate from the nature of their work permits – this would enable more expedited access to EI in the future;
  12. Restore migrant workers’ access to special EI benefits;
  13. Develop a pilot project to examine the establishment of EI interstate agreements with sending countries, so that workers can receive their payments when they return home, or if they are repatriated.

Since 2001, through our involvement with migrant workers, we have raised concerns regarding their contributions to EI without having access to it. In 2002, a member of J4MW advocated with a migrant worker to apply for EI parental benefits, which was successful. This first EI claim enabled thousands of workers to access these benefits to support their families.

In 2013, the federal government took the draconian and egregious step of restricting EI special benefits access to workers who possess valid work permits, thus denying thousands of workers access to benefits upon return to their home country. As you are well aware, Canadians who are overseas do not face the same restrictions as migrant workers to accessing EI special benefits.

With respect to access to regular EI benefits, migrants face multiple barriers. We have seen this with the ongoing pandemic and closure of multiple workplaces, but workers are also impacted by climate change. Pre-pandemic, agricultural migrants have been terminated and repatriated because of crop loss attributed to environmental or direct human factors. The current climate disaster in British Columbia is only the latest salvo in an ongoing devastating environmental disaster that has disproportionately impacted vulnerable communities.

Migrant farm workers have experienced the impact of climate change both in their home country and currently here in Canada. In 2017, for example, migrant farm workers from Dominica were stranded in Canada as a result of the devastation that was inflicted on the island from Hurricane Maria. No policies existed then or now to support this group of workers. Advocacy groups wrote to the federal government to develop immediate steps to address this failure of the government to assist in this prior crisis, but their calls for action to prevent climate racism were met with silence.

This past season’s fires, extreme heat, and now flooding have created significant obstacles for the agricultural industry. While both provincial and federal governments have developed support mechanisms to assist the industry, still no steps have been taken to support the industry’s workers. It is essential that the federal government develop proactive measures not piecemeal efforts to address the long term consequences of pandemics, economic uncertainty, and climate change. Short-term relief will not address systemic policy failures. Climate and economic injustice are intertwined both for migrants here and their home countries. Current EI policies undermine migrants’ access to income support. These issues will only heighten as climate disasters become more frequent and severe.

At the start of the COVID pandemic, J4MW requested immediate and urgent action to extend EI benefits to migrant workers who were stranded in their home country. Unemployed and unable to access their country’s own social safety net, restrictive work permits denied migrants access to benefits despite the strong labour attachment that this community has to our industry. They are praised as essential labour yet denied any benefits connected to this much heralded status. They are also described as “falling through the cracks,” as though the failure of this system can be attributed to unintended error, rather than a program designed to exploit migrant labour. This community is the backbone of our agricultural industry, and in return Canada denies them citizenship or even permanent residence status.

Rather than enable workers to seek other employment or access to EI benefits, migrants are routinely sent home. Workers who are terminated or are in the process of changing their place of employment are continuously denied benefits. As opposed to other groups of workers who can access Ontario Works or other means of financial support, migrant workers are undermined by onerous restrictive immigration practices in a system where access to justice (i.e. appeals) does not exist.

While in Canada, EI officials routinely deny workers access to benefits. For example, during the pandemic, tobacco workers, whose crops were damaged as a result of frost, were not not able to access EI benefits. They were then left destitute because all levels of government failed to take systemic action. In 2020, when over 400 Trinidadian migrant workers were stranded, many were found ineligible for EI, and it was only after persistent advocacy that the federal government created a special one-time open work permit scheme, under which some workers were able to access benefits.

Migrants from other jurisdictions who were stranded were not able to access EI benefits. Their efforts were greatly hindered due to barriers to electronic services, inability to make contact with EI agents, and the onerous reporting system. Many workers described the levels of surveillance and outright hostility they faced. This is attributed to the false belief that as ‘foreign’ workers they are ineligible for EI benefits. Employers have also taken steps to ensure that workers can not receive benefits. Last year, we heard migrant workers from a farm near London were discouraged from applying for EI benefits. When the workers did, they faced threats of termination and reprisal for doing so. Workers at additional farms allege that their contracts were terminated, and they were denied access to EI because they married Canadians.

In several cases, as workers’ status expired and they were not able to leave Canada because of border closures, they were left without income support. Community groups stepped up to the plate to provide clothing and food. Charity, however, will never address the systemic underpinnings of both a discriminatory and racist EI system coupled with an equally egregious Temporary Foreign Worker Program that is driven by the needs of employers and not in the interest of the community or workers.

In addition, while the current government policy centres the development of a gender lens, it is not clear that  gender (and racialized) lens has been undertaken to examine the impact of current EI policies on racialized women migrants from the global south. In our experience, women migrants have faced additional hurdles. Migrant women have been denied access to EI sickness benefits, resulting in these migrants undertaking lengthy appeals at the Social Security Tribunal, all while they have no income. Furthermore, migrant women have articulated the unique and specific barriers they have endured during the pandemic and the impact that the denial of EI benefits has had on their well-being during the pandemic,

Unemployment Insurance and the many reforms that have been enacted are a legacy of resistance by workers. From the On to Ottawa Trek, to the thousands of protests, occupations, marches, and other advocacy initiatives that continue to preserve the system that exists today. These activists developed a vision to implement a system that would protect and shield workers from the worst aspects of job loss and economic loss on the well being of our society. EI was built to prevent shocks on the back of workers. Reforms addressed the previous failures of government unemployment policies that discriminated against women and workers in seasonal industries.

The federal government must immediately address the current crisis and ensure that EI benefits are truly accessible, portable, and universal to all agricultural workers, regardless of their immigration status. Non-status workers and temporary foreign workers cannot be heralded for their sacrifices while Canada sacrifices their well being by denying access to benefits they deserve. This is not simply a call to extend status quo policies. Immediate steps including ending tied work permits and extending EI benefits to all without restrictions are short term policy options. Transformative changes are required to fully appreciate the current context of work in an ongoing global crisis. Maintaining workers under a system where they are tied to an employer is not sustainable. Borders controls and immigration status can no longer be wielded by the state to exclude nor deny essential workers access to Canada’s social safety net.


Justicia for Migrant Workers