Good news on DNA class action certification

Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) applauds the work of Goldblatt Partners LLP in achieving certification of the Granger case as a class action.

On Thursday July 9th, 2020 the Superior Court of Justice for Ontario ruled that the class action can proceed to a hearing on its merits. In October and November 2013, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) conducted a DNA sweep targeting Caribbean migrant farm workers while searching for a suspect involved in a criminal investigation. The class action proceedings were initiated by migrant worker Mickey Granger regarding the permanent retention of his DNA and that of approximately 100 other migrant workers involved in the DNA sweep.

You can read more about the background info for this case here.

Instead of focusing their search on the specific suspect description, the OPP engaged in an extremely broad DNA sweep that included racialized migrant workers who clearly did not match the suspect profile. DNA samples were taken from approximately 100 Indo and Afro-Caribbean men whose ages ranged from 21 to 61, whose heights ranged from 5’0” to 6’5”, and whose body sizes ranged between 130 lbs to 310 lbs. Other identifying features (e.g. hair style) were also disregarded. Workers were targeted even though they did not fit the suspect description. A human rights complaint was filed for 54 migrant workers regarding how the DNA was collected by the OPP.

“This is a significant advance on behalf of the migrant farmworkers who were impacted by the OPP’s DNA sweep. J4MW will continue to advocate on behalf of 54 of these individuals in a concurrent proceeding at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) to ensure that the racial discrimination underlying this case is appropriately addressed,” says Justicia for Migrant Workers activist and lawyer Shane Martinez, who is representing the workers in the HRTO proceedings.

In an era of outcry over racist and racialized policing, J4MW will continue to fight against injustices that occur to migrant workers in rural communities. The lack of accountability and oversight are not only issues of concern in urban settings, but racial injustice is inherent to the structures that enable migrant workers to be employed in rural communities across Canada.

“J4MW will fight anywhere and everywhere that racialized policing is used to specifically target racialized working class communities,” says Gabriel Allahdua. “Whether it’s fought in the streets or the courts, J4MW continues to strongly condemn the practice of DNA sweeps, the invasive collection and retention practices and how it’s used to specifically target Black, Indigenous, Racialized and working class communities.”

The OPP targeted the migrant worker community of Bayham, Ontario because of their precarious immigration status. They also believed that no one would hold them accountable for their actions. They were wrong! No more DNA sweeps, End Racial profiling, end racist policing and end police brutality!

Four ways you can take action in support of farm workers’ demands for dignity

Remember that video we shared of twelve workers crammed into a bunkhouse separated by flimsy cardboard? Here’s the backstory — and four ways you can take action in support of workers’ demands for dignity.

Aphria Inc., Canada’s cannabis powerhouse, recently claimed that they stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement:

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But this statement of solidarity appears to conflict with concerns raised by migrant agricultural workers employed at their facility, and through their choice of companies to partner with.

According to workers, most of those employed in Aphria’s greenhouse are migrants employed under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which allows employers to hire predominantly Latinx and Black workers from the global south.

Greenhouse workers at Aphria have shared the following:

  • While non-greenhouse workers received an additional dollar of pay per hour during the pandemic, greenhouse workers are excluded from this premium.
  • Workers have complained about health & safety concerns in the workplace related to COVID-19, such as an inability to physically distance in communal spaces (i.e. the lunch room).

Furthermore, Aphria has a partnership with Double Diamond Produce. In 2013 Double Diamond was found to be in violation of Ontario’s Human Rights Code for racial discrimination against Adrian Monrose, a migrant farm worker from St. Lucia who identifies as Afro-Caribbean. The tribunal found that an owner and supervisor at Double Diamond subjected Monrose and his co-workers to racial slurs, and then fired him and repatriated him to St. Lucia when he complained about the treatment. In a landmark decision the Tribunal awarded order Double Diamond to pay him over $23,000 as human rights damages and lost wages. It also ordered the company to institute a human rights policy, and required all supervisors at Double Diamond to complete human rights training. The decision can be read here.

Recently another brave migrant farm worker exposed the housing conditions at Double Diamond, as seen in a widely-shared video. Workers are alleging that the company did not implement adequate measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

These kinds of conditions, where workers have no reasonable opportunity to physically distance, are why hundreds of migrant workers on other farms have gotten sick with COVID-19. To date two migrant workers have tragically died.

The workers at Double Diamond and Aphria demand:

  • Access to Personal Protective Equipment upon request;
  • Sanitizing of the workplace and living quarters multiple times a day;
  • Dignified and safe living conditions, including ample space for physical distancing;
  • Collaboration with workers in developing a rigorous COVID-19 plan;
  • Immediate isolation of workers suspected of having COVID-19;
  • Hazard pay for all workers, retroactive to the start of the State of Emergency; and
  • Commitments by the employers to ensure that no reprisals are taken against workers who exercise their rights in speaking out for equitable and safe workplaces.

TAKE ACTION!

Justicia for Migrant Workers is asking you to show your support for workers through the following four actions:

ACTION 1

Phone 1-844-427-4742, email info@aphria.com and irwin.simon@aphria.com, and tweet Aphria (@aphriainc) to demand that Aphria:

  • Meet with workers and provide them with a safe route to voice their concerns (anonymously if necessary);
  • Give all workers employed during the pandemic a retroactive dollar increase as hazard pay;
  • End and prevent workplace practices that put workers’ health and safety at risk;
  • Explain: How does Aphria reconcile its purported commitment to Black Lives Matter with its business arrangement involving Double Diamond?
  • Provide safe and dignified accommodations for all migrant workers employed at Aphria, and require the same of your business partners.

Sample script:

It has come to our attention that your corporation recently declared your solidarity with the Black Lives Matters movement. We are concerned about your commitment to the fight against racial injustice while greenhouse workers at your workplace allege that they were recently denied a COVID-19 pay increase. Workers have also raised concerns regarding occupational health and safety issues both in the workplace and in their living conditions. 

We are showing solidarity today by demanding that all greenhouse workers retroactively receive the wage increase provided to other workers employed at Aphria. Furthermore it’s critical that you meet with the workers to address their concerns regarding working and living conditions, and describe what steps you will take to protect workers from COVID-19. 

Finally, it has also come to our attention that Aphria and Double Diamond have a relationship in the cannabis industry. As you may have seen in a recent video, farm workers are exposing deplorable housing conditions at Double Diamond. Furthermore, Double Diamond was found to have contravened the Ontario Human Rights Code when managers made racist slurs against Caribbean migrant farm workers. Migrant workers are demanding the following from Aphria:

  1. Meet with workers and provide them with a safe route to voice their concerns (anonymously if necessary);
  2. Give all workers employed during the pandemic a retroactive dollar increase as hazard pay;
  3. End and prevent workplace practices that put workers’ health and safety at risk;
  4. Explain: How does Aphria reconcile its purported commitment to Black Lives Matter with its business arrangement involving Double Diamond?
  5. Provide safe and dignified accommodations for all migrant workers employed at Aphria, and require the same of your business partners.

 

ACTION 2

Send a tweet to Ontario Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, demanding they make and enforce mandatory standards to protect migrant workers and undertake to carry out frequent, unannounced, and proactive inspections of bunkhouses.

[Sample tweet: Migrant farmworkers across Ontario are getting sick because they can’t physically distance at work or in their bunkhouse. @montemcnaughton, why isn’t @ONlabour doing frequent, proactive, unannounced bunkhouse inspections? Workers need protections now!]

ACTION 3

Send a tweet to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal ministers demanding a wage boost and full permanent resident status now for migrant workers,

[Sample tweet: @justintrudeau @cquatro @marcomendicino @Mclaudebibeau Stop discriminating against #migrant workers! Why no essential pay or wage boost for #migrants? #statusnow for #migrantworkers ]

ACTION 4

Sign the petition at: https://harvestingfreedom.org/2020/05/07/petition-tell-the-ontario-government-farmworkers-need-urgent-protections/  

 

A worker shared this video from the inside of an employer-provided bunkhouse.

Hundreds of Black and Brown migrant farm workers are contracting COVID-19 in Canada because of conditions like this. The following video was shared with us by a worker and shows how twelve men are currently crammed into a room separated by flimsy pieces of cardboard. Stay tuned — we’ll be naming this employer soon.

Meanwhile, seasonal agricultural workers coming to Canada from Jamaica have been required to sign a waiver releasing the Jamaican government from liability if they’re exposed to COVID-19.

How many more exposés are needed before the government takes real action?  It’s time for the federal government, Ministry of Labour and public health to show that they value the lives of people of colour from the Global South. They need to take action stop the spread of this pandemic.

Migrant workers are demanding permanent status on arrival in Canada. It’s time to end the differential treatment farm workers face in Canada, including exemptions from employment protections that other workers can access.

Please sign our petition here.

“It’s almost like racism will never be over.” A migrant farm worker calls for an end to being treated like “a modern-day slave”

Over 670 migrant agricultural workers have been confirmed positive for COVID-19 in Canada, and two comrades have died. Activists have been predicting these outbreaks for months.

How many more migrant farm workers will need to fall ill before the government starts valuing the lives of people of colour from the Global South? It’s time for the the federal government to give #statusnow for all migrant workers! It’s also time for the province to end the differential treatment farm workers receive under provincial labour standards.

Please sign our petition here.

A migrant farm worker who is currently working in Canada shares the following message from the frontlines:

“..migrants are facing too much struggle here in Canada when they are a major factor to Canadians’ needs and even Canada’s economy… see how this young migrant worker from Mexico died…. right now his body is left at his family’s expense to get him back to Mexico for a proper burial… This shouldn’t be when he been playing a major factor in Canada’s food chain and economy. Migrant workers are almost no good to Canada when they are no longer able to meet the needs of their Canadian employer.. Shouldn’t be.

It’s almost like racism will never be over.

Migrant workers should be stopped treated as modern-day slaves…conditions we have to live in… working humiliation and belittleness we have to face… It’s almost like racism will never be over… we shouting Black Lives Matters.. but what really matters?? What’s the concern… police killing Black citizens… that’s the only Black life that matter… the migrant workers.. most are of the Black race… so it’s same racism against we migrant workers we are facing… for what?? coming here to perform task Canadians don’t want to do… meet needs and demands of Canadians.. contribute to major part of Canada’s economy.. I mean since before I came here as migrant worker, migrant workers been treated this way… racism same way.. When will it ever stop??? Will it ever stop?? Or should I do like others and speak on behalf of my fellow migrant workers and just agree I’ll be sent home and denied coming back here..

Your only opportunity is to get another job as a migrant worker on some farm.. If not you sent home and maybe replaced. Like, that’s all migrant workers are good for??

The only chance migrant workers do have in Canada is as a migrant farm worker… nothing more.. no other benefits… for example me.. being here.. since March 23rd.. haven’t been working.. no income.. have been contributing to Canadians needs and Canada’s economy for the past 4 years.. now I’m out a job.. no money.. Am I to just sit here hungry till my time visa expire and return home.. That’s how it is? Or maybe steal a chance.. work under table.. no benefits … like others been doing??? More serious stuff should be put in place for migrant workers here… If you lost a job as a migrant farm worker.. Your only opportunity is to get another job as a migrant worker on some farm.. If not you sent home and maybe replaced. Like, that’s all migrant workers are good for??

Migrants ain’t Canadians, doesn’t mean migrants ain’t human.

A lot of changes need to be done… a lot more opportunities need to be put in place for migrants workers seeing we are playing and contributing so much to Canada and Canadians… They need to open up more doors to migrant workers beside the opportunity of just working on a farm, financially… things need to be put in place for migrant workers to obtain financial benefits during times like now…. Clearly if you a migrant worker and for example not working like times like now.. how can you take care of your family back home which you came here to provide for in the 1st place.? Migrants ain’t Canadians, doesn’t mean migrants ain’t human.

Now he is dead, he is of no good to Canada cause he can’t physically provide the needs and wants of Canadians and automatically it’s his family expense and duty to make sure his back home for burial.

Health wise.. a lot more need to be done when it comes for migrants health here in Canada, this young man left his family to provide for them.. but also to contribute to the demands and need of Canadians and even Canada’s economy by extension.. Now he is dead, he is of no good to Canada cause he can’t physically provide the needs and wants of Canadians and automatically it’s his family expense and duty to make sure his back home for burial. Some form of benefit or insurance should be put in place… he’s no longer a bread winner to his family as a result of death in another country as a migrant worker yet its his families expense to get him home.. What about the impact an contribution he made to Canada upon living his family. He’s dead, he could easily be replaced like we would often be humiliated with these words by farm bosses, what about his family?? Who to contribute and provide for them?? A lot need to be done.. Migrants come here to work and make a better life for the love ones back home and more so to provide the Canadians with their daily food and other services… more opportunities for better lives of migrants workers, migrant worker families should be put in place..

when you are no longer of good health or no longer meet the criteria of serving as a modern-day slave, you are then replaced.

Even with migrant workers being going back and forth for certain amount of years contributed to Canada’s economy and needs of Canadians is only accessible to specific work permit given the chance to only work on farms.. open work permits for migrant workers to further provide for them self, further contribute Canada’s economy, meet the needs and demands of Canadians, in which they could now be comfortable and eligible to other benefits because migrants are humans too. Some reason it is felt like migrant workers are only to be as modern days slaves here in Canada and when you are no longer of good health or no longer meet the criteria of serving as a modern-day slave, you are then replaced.

 

At just one Ontario farm, at least 164 workers have tested positive for COVID-19. Take action now!

At least 164 racialized migrant workers from Mexico have tested positive for COVID-19 at Scotlynn Group’s farm in Norfolk County, Ontario. Meanwhile, the employer is offering to pay Canadian residents $25/hour to harvest asparagus. We have never heard of a migrant farmworker anywhere earning $25 an hour for their hard-earned labour.

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Please take the following actions today in support of migrant justice. It won’t take long to tweet, email and/or phone right now:

1. TWEET at @scotlynnGroup. Ask, the employer:

  • “Will migrant farm workers also be paid $25 an hour?”
  • “Will you commit to not repatriating workers who are sick or injured?”
  • “Will you commit to paying migrant workers full wages and no deductions during their quarantine period, at the same rate you are paying Canadian residents?”
  • “Will you commit to rehiring all migrant labourers next year and paying the $25 they are offering this year to Canadian workers?

You can use the following hashtags: #migrantjustice #fairwagesnow #covid19 #covid19Ontario #onpoli #onlab #onlab

Feel free to CC @fordnation @montemcnaughton @marcomendicino @cquantrough and @mclaudebideau.

2. EMAIL the employer at info@scotlynn.com. Please CC j4mw.on@gmail.com so we can keep track of how many emails are sent. Sample email:

I am aware that you are offering to pay $25/hour to assist with harvesting asparagus, and I am writing to inquire whether or not the migrant workers employed at your workplace will also be paid $25 an hour. Will you commit to this as well as paying the workers full wages during their quarantine? Furthermore, will you ensure that no migrant worker who is sick or injured will be repatriated, and that they will be provided full access to the Canadian healthcare system? Finally, will you commit to rehiring all workers next year if they so choose to return to Scotlynn, paying the $25 rate that you are offering to Canadian residents? I await a response from you.

3. PHONE Scotlynn Group at 1-800-263-9117 ext 2225. Phone script:

I am phoning today to ask about your job posting. Are you paying migrant farm workers $25 as well? Will you pay the workers full wages during their quarantine, and will you commit to not sending home injured and sick workers so they receive full access to our healthcare system? Finally, will you rehire all the workers next year if they choose to return? For years your farm business has relied on migrant workers, and its our hope that they will be treated with fairness and respect during this pandemic.

Want to know what housing conditions are like like for migrant farmworkers right now? Watch this video and then sign our petition.

Farmworkers and activists have long called on the government to address inconsistent and often appalling, overcrowded migrant farmworker housing. Agricultural business groups, however, have lobbied against a national housing standard for migrant farmworkers. More than ever, the pandemic reveals the potentially deadly results of how Canada treats racialized people from the Majority World who are categorized as essential yet “temporary” workers.

To offset the cost of housing workers in a way that complies with pandemic requirements, the federal government has provided $50 million to farms and agri-food businesses that employ people through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. So worker housing in the COVID-19 crisis must be decent, right? This video shows where migrant farmworkers in Ontario are currently being housed:

We demand that governments ensure dignity for essential migrant farmworkers. Please sign our petition: https://harvestingfreedom.org/2020/05/07/petition-tell-the-ontario-government-farmworkers-need-urgent-protections/

Urgent and immediate steps are needed to protect farm workers: J4MW

To the Premier and members of the Ontario Command Table for COVID-19 

Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is writing to request urgent and immediate action is taken to protect the thousands of agricultural workers employed in the province of Ontario. With recent reports that there have been confirmed cases at two large farming operations Highline Mushrooms and Greenhill Produce, it is imperative that the province responds. J4MW is asking what steps will the province undertake to protect the interests of farm workers, and to protect the food supply chain. We urge the province to immediately suspend any agricultural workplace from operating until the workplace is fully sanitized and the workers are provided with full Personal Protective Equipment while at work. Furthermore workers should be paid full wages during the sanitization process. Finally it is imperative that MOL inspectors extend their inspections to include bunkhouses and all agricultural dwellings provided to farm workers. Finally it is also critical that the province develop a COVID 19 action plan to protect workers specifically in agriculture. 

J4MW is urging that the Province and the Ministry of Labour undertake these immediate steps to level the playing field so that all farm workers can be protected from the spread of the pandemic. These steps should include: 

  • Extend the wage boost to include farm workers in Ontario. 
  • Provide an expedited appeals process for migrant workers when filing complaints with respect to occupational health and safety and employment standards complaints. 
  • Migrant farm workers should be provided the ability to work so that they are not tied to a single employer.
  • Extend occupational health and safety legislation to include agricultural dwellings.
  • Strengthen anti reprisal protections to ensure workers are not fired for raising health and safety concerns or if they become sick or injured at work. 
  • Develop regulations to protect workers from heat stress, chemical or pesticide. exposure, confined spaces, working at heights and other occupational hazards.
  • Increase proactive and snap inspection on all farming operations across Ontario
  • Provide hazard pay, sick pay and other benefits to recognize the dangers associated with agricultural work. 
  • Recognize piece rate as an occupational health and safety hazard. 
  • Develop and implement occupational health and safety legislation that recognizes, race, racism, systemic discrimination and provides an equity analysis in determining which categories of workers are at greater risk of occupational hazards. 
  • Communicate what protocols the WSIB has in place to isolate infected workers (and protect uninfected workers) if there is an outbreak in the bunkhouse or workplace.
  • End employer wage deductions for all personal protective equipment and develop regulations that ensure employers provide bathrooms, washing facilities and potable water for farm workers across Ontario. 
  • Strengthen migrant worker protection against recruitment fees by holding employers and recruiters jointly liable. 
  • End the exclusions to holiday pay, overtime pay, minimum hours of work provisions and the myriad of regulations that deny fairness to farmworkers. 

The issues raised in this letter are long standing requests that farm workers have been bringing forward for decades. To stamp out the spread of this pandemic then it is critical that structural changes are made to address the systemic power imbalances that exist in our fields. 

These structural inequities in agriculture work are exacerbated under the twin forces of the pandemic and harvesting pressures. It has therefore never been more imperative to provide the workers with all the rights and protections. Farm employers are receiving several benefits in the form of subsidies and other grants and other regulatory exemptions. It is time that the workers receive the benefits that are due to them and are valued for their essential labour. 

Justicia for Migrant Workers

 

Message from an anonymous migrant worker at Greenhill Produce

Justicia for Migrant Workers received this important message that we believe needs to be shared widely in light of recent reports about the outbreak COVID-19 at Greenhill Produce in Chatham-Kent, Ontario:

We the farm workers of Greenhill produce feel a bit outcast like we are the least  we feel a bit disrespect..guys test result positive and guys test result negative from Sunday April 22 and up to this date April 24 we the positive and the negative are living in the same house using the same utensils, same bathroom,doing everything like nothing is wrong only told they are following the health procedures..we ask for sanitizers to help kill the spreading of the virus in such a crowded place until now none. Thanks to God some guys always buy bleach that’s what we have to be using…we gave them food list we get what is the Canadian norm of shopping.

We want a voice we are so afraid to talk, we are afraid we get sent back home. This is our JOB this is how we survive this is how we take care of our family back home. Without this God help so we are grateful for the job we are happy for it but we need to be treated as equal as everyone. Liaison officers who should be our advocate we haven’t seen nor hear from them. We have to speak out for us we want to feel comfortable working that if we get injured we are treated equal. This could have been avoided this is a part of negligence. When workers took sick, they took too long before medical attention and still going to work then it spread…please please hear our cry.

No wage boost, no protections at work: J4MW demands action from Ontario to protect farm workers.

As the province announces a wage boost for some essential workers, migrant activist group Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is demanding answers why are farm workers one of the most vulnerable groups excluded from these income supports. With recent news reports of the spread of the virus to some agricultural operations, J4MW is asking what steps will the province undertake to protect the interests of farm workers, and to protect the food supply chain.

J4MW is urging that the Province and the Ministry of Labour undertake these immediate steps to level the playing field that all farm workers can be protected from the spread of the pandemic. These steps should include:

  • Extend the wage boost to include all farm workers in Ontario.
  • Provide an expedited appeals process for migrant workers when filing complaints with respect to occupational health and safety and employment standards complaints.
  • Migrant farm workers should be provided the ability to work so that they are not tied to a single employer.
  • Extend occupational health and safety legislation to include agricultural dwellings.
  • Strengthen anti reprisal protections to ensure workers are not fired for raising health and safety concerns or if they become sick or injured at work.
  • Develop regulations to protect workers from heat stress, chemical or pesticide. exposure, confined spaces, working at heights and other occupational hazards.
  • Increase proactive and snap inspection on all farming operations across Ontario
  • Provide hazard pay, sick pay and other benefits to recognize the dangers associated with agricultural work.
  • Recognize piece rate as an occupational health and safety hazard.
  • Develop and implement occupational health and safety legislation that recognizes, race, racism, systemic discrimination and provides an equity analysis in determining which categories of workers are at greater risk of occupational hazards.
  • Communicate what protocols the WSIB has in place to isolate infected workers (and protect uninfected workers) if there is an outbreak in the bunkhouse or workplace.
  • End employer wage deductions for all personal protective equipment and develop regulations that ensure employers provide bathrooms, washing facilities and potable water for farm workers across Ontario.
  • Strengthen migrant worker protection against recruitment fees by holding employers and recruiters jointly liable.
  • End the exclusions to holiday pay, overtime pay, minimum hours of work provisions and the myriad of regulations that deny fairness to farmworkers.

“These are long standing request that farm workers have been bringing up for decades” says Moilene Samuels an activist with Justice for Migrant Workers if we want to stamp out the spread of this pandemic then we need structural changes to address the systemic power imbalances that exist in our field.” continues Samuels

University of Windsor law professor Dr. Vasanti Venkatesh notes that “migrant farmworkers have been the lynchpin of the harvesting season and their contributions have become more crucial than ever as they provide Canada with food security during the pandemic. Yet, it is during harvesting season that the workers are given least protection, as they work numerous overtime hours without pay under hazardous living and working conditions”.

Venkatesh continues that “the structural inequities in agriculture work are exacerbated under the twin forces of the pandemic and harvesting pressures. It has therefore never been more imperative to provide the workers with all the rights and protections. Farm employers are receiving several benefits in the form of subsidies and other grants and other regulatory exemptions. It is time that the workers receive the benefits that are due to them and are valued for their essential labour.”

For further information please contact Chris Ramsaroop 647-834-4932

Twitter @j4mw

E-maill j4mw.on@gmail.com or harvestingfreedomcampaign@gmail.com