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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farmers given blank cheque by Feds: No steps taken to protect farm workers rights in today’s announcement.

For Immediate Release

Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is outraged that the federal government is providing a blank cheque of $50 million to agricultural employers to cover the costs of housing for temporary foreign workers during their 14-day quarantine when arriving in Canada. In today’s announcement, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food Marie-Claude Bibeau, emphasized that $1500 would be allocated to cover each worker hired by an employer who requires housing support during the quarantine period of 14 days upon arrival in Canada. Meanwhile thousands of migrant workers remain in Mexico and the Caribbean with no ability to return to work in Canada this year. The federal government has not provided a clear response of whether or not income supports such as EI or the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will be extended to protect these migrants and their families back home. 

Canada has two long-standing temporary foreign worker programs to bring migrant workers to Canada. The low wage agricultural stream and the long standing Seasonal Agricultural Workers program are self regulated programs where employer organizations self govern the operations of the program with very little oversight for the estimated 60,000 migrants who arrive annually to work on Canadian agricultural enterprises. Migrant agricultural workers are tied to a particular employer and denied labour and social mobility akin to a 21st century indentured migration scheme. 

J4MW strongly opposes subsidies to Canada’s agricultural industry while its workforce remains employed under precarious and dangerous conditions. Today’s announcement does nothing to address the deplorable housing conditions that already exist or the power imbalance that exacerbates the vulnerability of migrant farm workers during this pandemic. 

Migrant farm workers pay costs to cover transportation, biometrics, work permits, private health insurance, personal protective equipment and a whole slew of additional deductions. J4MW argues that in reality the nearly 60,000 migrant agricultural workers earn less than minimum wage after deductions, something that is not addressed in today’s federal announcement. Employers are profiting from the precarious nature of agricultural labour while further entrenching poverty and hunger amongst the workers who put food on our table.

Contact J4mw.on@gmail.com or @j4mw (twitter)

 

 

 

Requesting urgent action from provincial and federal governments: Temporary Foreign Workers and COVID-19

Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is urgently demanding action from both the province of Ontario and the government of Canada with respect to the dignity of migrant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, neither level of government has provided any clear communication or policy announcements regarding this structurally precarious and vulnerable population. Their housing conditions are often crowded, which could be devastating in the event of COVID-19 transmission. We urgently demand answers on what steps both levels of government will take to ensure this pandemic does not disproportionately impact equity-seeking communities.

Our healthcare system should support well-being for all, irrespective of immigration status. COVID-19 affects both those who have and do not have health cards. Migrants with unequal access to healthcare will be more susceptible to sickness. Waiting period requirements and health card requirements should be waived immediately. No worker should be repatriated, terminated or deported for falling ill or sick at work because of this current pandemic.

Access to Employment Insurance must protect all workers. We echo the pragmatic demands made by our labour and community partners (e.g. waiving the 1-week waiting period and qualifying hours requirement for EI; providing special supports for workers not normally entitled to EI, such as contractors and gig workers, etc.). We urge you to also consider specific protections for all temporary foreign workers including:
  • Open permits and expedited visa and LMIA process so that laid off or terminated migrant  workers can seek other work in agriculture or other industries;
  • The implementation of action teams to assist vulnerable workers in accessing EI, including services in their own language;
  • Removing barriers to access to learning and educational opportunities provided by the EI fund;
  • Ensuring that all migrants with 900 series social insurance numbers have access to both regular and special benefits both here in Canada and their home country.
  • For workers who have been employed in Canada but are being denied the ability to return to work, EI funds should be made available to provide income support.
Provincially, we echo the call for the reinstatement of paid sick days for all workers. Workers must also be provided proper rest periods and breaks and other protections enshrined under employment standards. We strongly oppose any form of divide and rule practices that may lead to the exemption of agricultural workers from these important benefits. As an occupational health and safety issue, employers must cover the cost of safety equipment and hygiene products to protect workers from infection. Ministry of Labour inspectors should be undertaking unannounced proactive inspections in the interest of protecting the well-being of some of the most vulnerable members of our workforce. In the event that employers neglect to provide relevant supports for workers, public health should steps in to provide those supports.

In his public address, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about his ability to use technology to continue his work. Not every worker has this luxury. We demand to know what steps the federal and provincial governments will undertake to ensure access to the internet is universal. There is strong concern that precarious workers will face significant data overcharges during this crisis.

Echoing the words of Dr. Michael Ryan, the Executive Director of the World Health Organization “We cannot forget migrants, we can not forget undocumented workers . . . The only way to beat this [COVID-19] is to leave no one behind… So when we talk about stigma we also need to avoid that, but we need to avoid exclusion as well. We’re in this together and I hope we can finish this together.”

In closing, pandemics always have a human face. Our concern is how migrant workers may be vilified and criminalized as a result of COVID-19. We strongly condemn any attempts to scapegoat migrant workers or to implement policies that negatively and disproportionately impact migrant workers across Canada.

Need to file an anonymous complaint?

Do you need to file an anonymous complaint?

Justicia for Migrant Workers has received several reports of farm workers who are either not receiving breaks or fainting while at work in the heat. Please share far and wide: if there are occupational health and safety issues related to heat stress, a person can file an anonymous complaint by phone, fax or electronically.

To file a complaint, notify the ministry of fatalities, critical injuries, work refusals, reprisals and unsafe work practices, including heat-related issues:

Ministry of Labour Health & Safety Contact Centre
• Toll-free: 1-877-202-0008
• TTY: 1-855-653-9260
• Fax: 905-577-1316
To file an anonymous complaint electronically, go to https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/feedback/ and scroll down to FEEDBACK.
You do not need to provide your name or contact info.

Do you need additional help? Email us at j4mw.on@gmail.com

Take action in solidarity with Ralston Maise!

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Photo: Rebecca Gerster. Solidarity delegation with Ralston Maise on 23 November, 2018.

On December 10th, please take a minute to tell Tom Teahen that Ralston Maise deserves fairness from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Ralston injured his knee in June 2017 while picking berries. Even though the WSIB is supposed to protect injured workers, under Teahen’s leadership, they:

  • Refused to recognize Ralston’s accident
  • Conducted interviews with Ralston’s co-workers while the employer was in the room (i.e. a chilling effect)

When migrant workers become sick or injured on the job, they know they could be sent home before accessing the full medical care to which they’re entitled. Consequently, they often downplay workplace injuries. Similarly, co-workers who are called upon as witnesses often fear speaking out against their bosses.

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Ralston Maise with allies at WSIB. Photo: Rebecca Gerster.

If the WSIB had accounted for these realities, Ralston’s life would be much better: he could have recovered and made a decent life for himself and his family. Instead, Ralston is now dependent on the generosity of others for housing, has trouble putting food on the table, and cannot get medical care for his injury.

On November 23rd, 2018, Ralston led a delegation with dozens of concerned community members to demand fairness and compensation for his injuries. WSIB refused our request to send a decision maker to address our concerns. Instead, our delegation was met with a public relations representative.

To date, no steps have been taken to address concerns raised by Ralston and the community.

On December 10th, please take a minute to tell Tom Teahen c/o Steve Jackson that Ralston Maise deserves fairness from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). 

Call him at (416) 344-4320 and/or email him at steve_jackson@wsib.on.ca.

If you don’t receive this call-to-action until a few days later, it’s still fine to call or phone. 🙂

Sample Call

To: (416) 344-4320

Hello Mr. Jackson. I have a message for Mr. Teahen.  
My name is ____ .  I’m calling from ____(city or organization) to 
express my deep concern about how the WSIB is treating Ralston Maise,
a migrant worker who was injured at work last year. The WSIB denied 
his claim and ignored the fact that migrant workers often downplay 
injuries for fear of repatriation.  I urge the WSIB to immediately 
provide fair compensation to Ralston and change the system so that it
better protects injured migrant workers. Thank you.

 

Sample Email – please CC  j4mw.on@gmail.com

To: steve_jackson@wsib.on.ca

Dear Mr. Teahen,

I would like to express my deep concern about how the WSIB is treating
Ralston Maise.

The WSIB refused to recognize Ralston’s accident and ignored the fact
that migrant workers often downplay their injuries for fear of 
repatriation and permanent removal from the Seasonal Agricultural 
Worker Program. It then interviewed Ralston’s co-workers while the 
employer was in the room with no regard for the consequences they face
if they speak out against their employer.


The WSIB is well aware of these issues but has not taken sufficient 
steps to address them. By failing to do so, the WSIB is denying 
migrant workers equitable access to the workers’ compensation system. 

I urge you to immediately:
1. Provide fair compensation for Ralston Maise;
2. Train WSIB's eligibility adjudicators to take into consideration 
the unique vulnerabilities faced by migrant workers in their decision 
making;
3. Strengthen protections for witnesses so that they are not put at 
risk for telling the truth; and
4. Work with migrant workers and their advocates to take immediate 
and concrete steps to address the WSIB’s institutionalized racism.

I look forward to seeing these changes in effect and to receiving 
your response.

Sincerely,
(Name)

Ending immigration raids

Justicia for Migrant Workers  (J4MW) strongly condemns the immigration raid that occurred near Leamington on May 1st, International Workers’ Day. This workplace raid serves to criminalize migrant farm workers and create a chilling effect throughout the community. While details are still emerging about the specifics of the raid, previous workplace raids have predominantly targeted temporary foreign workers and non-status residents of the Windsor Essex community.

This most recent workplace raid should not be seen as an isolated incident but part of a broader immigration strategy undertaken by Canada’s Liberal government to attack working-class migrants and deny them the dignity to work free from state intimidation and harassment.

By enabling employers to use Canada’s immigration laws to divide workers based on immigration status, gender, race, and nationality, the government itself is complicit in creating the conditions that enable employers, recruiters and contractors to exploit migrant workers. By poisoning water through resource extraction, filing the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, and violating Indigenous sovereignty, Canadian business interests are also complicit in creating the conditions that displace communities in the Global South. Canadian foreign policies work in tandem with state immigration policies to create a mobile yet indentured workforce in which migrants have neither the freedom to stay or the freedom the move on their own terms.

While the federal Liberals proclaim the rhetoric of an open, inclusive and tolerant approach to immigration, immigration raids dispel this myth. J4MW strongly denounces immigration raids as an insidious capitalist strategy to divide and rule. We call on all allies to support an end to draconian immigration raids.

Things you can do to take action:

  1. Call or write Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen (phone: 613-995-0777 or  613-954-1064  and 416-656-2526; email: Ahmed.Hussen@parl.gc.ca and minister@cic.gc.ca) and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale (phone: 613-947-1153; 306-585-2202, and 613-991-2924; email: ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca and Hon.ralph.goodale@canada.ca):
    1. Ask them to take action on the points listed below.
  2. Call, email or text your friends, asking them to join you in demanding an end to workplace raids.
  3. Share a solidarity image with the migrant workers on social media using the hashtags #statusnow and #endtheraids and tag Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

    1. On Twitter: @AhmedDHussen & @RalphGoodale
    2. On Facebook: @AhmedHussenLib & @ralphgoodale.

Urge them to take immediate steps to ensure:

  • Permanent status on arrival for migrant workers

  • An end to deportations and repatriations

  • Equal access to social entitlements

  • An end to the power that contractors and recruiters exert over migrant workers.

Take action for the international broadcast of Migrant Dreams!

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The reality of Canada’s labour apartheid enters the world stage with the international broadcast of Migrant Dreams on Al Jazeera for May 2nd.  Throughout the month of May, Al Jazeera will stream the documentary for free worldwide.

 

The documentary Migrant Dreams tears a rupture in the myth of ‘Canada the Good’.

Migrant Dreams foregrounds the voices of migrant workers who work in farms in Canada through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The film opens a conversation about the relationship between labour, race, class, gender and settlement — otherwise known as immigration — to Canada viewed through the prism of the Canada’s migrant worker programs.

In the film, workers from Indonesia battle an exploitative recruiter who extorts them for money under the threat of deportation if they don’t pay up.  Other workers struggle with crowded substandard housing, unsafe exposures to pesticides and unsafe conditions.  Workers in Canada’s migrant program are told to pay up, shut up or get out.

Under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, thousands of racialized workers are employed under a system of low-wage indentured labour. Their visas are ‘tied’ to an employer, and they are vulnerable to abuse because of the control employers exert over working and living conditions in Canada. Workers deserve freedom from discrimination and exploitation.

Let’s use this international spotlight to pressure the Canadian government to take action on migrant worker justice. Workers in Canada are standing up, fighting back and resisting systemic oppression. Speaking out in the documentary is an act of courage.  We ask you to support these workers – stand in solidarity with their demands for fairness and justice.

Let’s send a strong message that this isn’t simply about one ‘bad apple’ employer abusing the program. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is rotten to the core. And it’s time the Canadian government addressed the rights of low wage, racialized workers who are treated like disposable commodities.

Phone and/or email your Member of Parliament (find them by postal code), and CC j4mw.on@gmail.com. You can also tweet @JustinTrudeau, @AhmedDHussen and @PattyHajdu.

Ask them to support:

  • Landed status on arrival for all migrant workers;
  • Equal access to all social programs (including Employment Insurance)
  • Ending the unilateral repatriations of migrant workers, and implementing an appeals process so migrant workers aren’t simply deported because an employer says so.
  • Taking steps to end recruitment fees

Here’s a sample letter you can copy & paste into an email:

Dear [MP/Minister/Prime Minister],

Migrant Dreams, a documentary about Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, just launched its international premiere. I am shocked and angered by the systemic injustice depicted in this crucial documentary. Canada claims to be a global leader on human rights, but Migrant Dreams tells a very different story of what is occurring in Canadian fields, greenhouses and packing plants.

This isn’t a story about a few bad apples: the entire Temporary Foreign Worker Program is rotten to the core. To end these injustices, I urge you and your government to take steps immediately to support the following:

  • Landed status on arrival for all migrant workers;
  • Equal access to all social programs (including Employment Insurance)
  • Ending the unilateral repatriations of migrant workers, and implementing an appeals process so migrant workers aren’t simply deported because an employer says so.
  • Taking steps to end recruitment fees

Sincerely,

[Your name and mailing address, so they know you’re a real person]

Honouring comrades on Workers’ Memorial Day

April 28 marks the Day of Mourning, and workers across the world are taking the time to honour our comrades killed at work.

Migrant workers and their allies join today to demand an end to dangerous, demeaning and dehumanizing work, and an end to unsafe practices that result in injury and death. Justicia for Migrant Workers wants to highlight the particular vulnerabilities faced by migrants employed under temporary foreign worker programs in Canada.

Being tied to an employer and under constant threat of repatriation means that migrant workers are at particular risk of being employed under unsafe conditions. If migrant workers are injured on the job in Canada, they are often treated as disposable, denied access to the health care and workplace compensation to which they’re entitled, and sent home. Despite our consistent calls for changes to our labour laws, there has never been a Coroner’s inquest to investigate the death of a migrant farm worker who died on the job in Canada.

Ontario, for example, has continued to exempt farm workers from protections available to most other workers in the province. Current regulations place workers at the risk of exposure to pesticides and other agro-chemicals, confined spaces, heat stress, and working at dangerous heights.

While we mourn the deaths of our friends, comrades and loved ones, today is a call to action to recognize one workplace death as one death too many. Let’s organize together to build power, to build strength, and to build our resistance against dangerous and deadly working conditions. We owe it to those who have passed, to their loved ones, and to future generations to ensure farm workplaces uphold the highest standards of safety and dignity for all.

Show solidarity with Leon! Seeking donations for an injured migrant worker

Migrant worker Leon Ferguson at a rally in Ottawa as part of J4MW's Harvesting Freedom caravan.

Migrant worker Leon Ferguson at a rally in Ottawa in 2016 as part of J4MW’s Harvesting Freedom caravan.

We are writing with an urgent financial appeal to cover the costs of a MRI for an injured migrant farm worker from Jamaica. We are seeking to raise $1500. All monies donated will be used to cover the costs of the MRI and travel to medical appointments.

Continue reading

Take action: Justice for migrant temple workers

Four workers from India who were working at a temple in Toronto

Indian migrant workers have filed a complaint with the Ontario Ministry of Labour after working at a Toronto temple. Photo: Tamil Workers Network.

Last week, migrant temple workers from India filed a complaint with Ontario’s Ministry of Labour alleging they were owed tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages, along with concerns over substandard housing and workplace harassment. Their case echoes the exploitation and indignities courageously raised by many migrant farm workers, adding to a long list of systemic exploitation. Under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, thousands of racialized workers are employed under a system of low-wage indentured labour. Their visas are ‘tied’ to an employer, and they are vulnerable to abuse because of the control employers exert over working and living conditions in Canada.
Workers deserve freedom from discrimination and exploitation. Please stand in solidarity with these workers’ demands for fairness and justice. Let’s send a strong message that this isn’t simply about one ‘bad apple’ employer abusing the program. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is rotten to the core.

TAKE ACTION

Phone and/or email your Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) (find their contact info here). Please CC j4mw.on@gmail.com. Ask them to ensure:
  1. Both occupational health & safety and employment standards are modernized to protect the rights of low-wage migrant workers;
  2. Random spot-checks at work sites and employer-provided accommodations;
  3. Access to provincial health insurance on arrival, stopping the practice of medical repatriations whereby sick and injured migrants are sent home, and ending discriminatory workers compensation practices that deny migrant workers equal access to benefits
Phone and/or email your Member of Parliament (click here to find them by postal code), and CC j4mw.on@gmail.com. You can also tweet @AhmedDHussen and @PattyHajdu. Ask them to support:
  1. Landed status on arrival for all migrant workers;
  2. Equal access to all social programs (including Employment Insurance)
  3. Ending the unilateral repatriations of migrant workers, and implementing an appeals process so migrant workers aren’t simply deported because an employer says so.

Sample letters

Please copy the text below and use PASTE AS TEXT to remove formatting:

Dear MPP,

I was outraged to learn the recent news about exploitative working and living conditions that a group of migrant temple workers endured while working in Toronto. Unfortunately, this fits a wider pattern of exploitation and injustice that migrant activists have been raising for decades. Whether it is in the service sector, construction, agriculture or a host of other industries that employ migrant workers, there are systemic issues that the provincial government must undertake to end the injustices faced by migrant workers.

I respectfully urge you to ensure:

  • Both occupational health & safety and employment standards are modernized to protect the rights of low-wage migrant workers.
  • Random spot-checks at work sites and employer-provided accommodations.
  • Access to provincial health insurance on arrival, stopping the practice of medical repatriations whereby sick and injured  migrants are sent home, and ending discriminatory workers compensation practices that deny migrant workers equal access to benefits.

Sincerely,

[Your name and address, so they know you’re a real person]

Dear MP,

I was outraged to learn the recent news regarding exploitative working and living conditions that a group of migrant temple workers endured while working in Toronto. Unfortunately, this fits a wider pattern of exploitation and injustice that migrant activists have been raising for decades. Whether it is in the service sector, construction, agriculture or a host of other industries that employ migrant workers, there are systemic issues that the federal government must undertake to end the injustices faced by migrant workers.

I respectfully urge you to ensure:
  • Landed status on arrival for all migrant workers;
  • Equal access to all social programs (including Employment Insurance)
  • Ending the unilateral repatriations of migrant workers, and implementing an appeals process so migrant workers aren’t simply deported because an employer
[Your name and address, so they know you’re a real person]

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