URGENT: Two actions in solidarity with migrant activist Gina Bahiwal

Gina Bahiwal, a migrant worker who has been a crucial advocate for migrant and women’s rights in Canada is facing deportation on January 15th at 9:30pm. Here are two ways you can show solidarity with Gina:

  1. Donate to help cover the cost of her legal fees (please share this request letter for donations). Donate here via secure PayPal and let us know your donation is for Gina’s legal defence.
  2. Email Minister Ralph Goodale to ask him to stop the deportation (CC Minister Ahmed Hussen, Parliamentary Secretary Arif Virani, and MP Tracey Ramsey, and Justice for Migrant Workers). We’ve included a template letter below.
Drawing of Gina Bahiwal during the Justice for Migrant Workers Harvesting Freedom campaign

Artwork: Tzazná

Gina (Gregorgina) Bahiwal came to Canada from the Philippines in 2008 under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and has worked in vegetable-packing, housekeeping, and fast food. Despite being married, she is now facing deportation.

Throughout her time in Canada, Gina has been a bedrock for justice in the community. This has included advocating tirelessly for the rights of migrant workers like her, particularly among migrant women, providing mutual aid and services to other workers, and exposing the exploitative practices of recruiters. Gina has appeared in the documentary The End of Immigration, helped organize the J4MW Pilgrimage to Freedom in 2011, gave a deputation on migrant rights to the federal HUMA Standing Committee, and spoke at a press conference on Parliament Hill for the launch of the 2016 J4MW Harvesting Freedom campaign.

Deporting Gina would incur a huge loss to the communities she has been part of for the past nine years.

TEMPLATE LETTER TO MINISTER GOODALE

The Honourable Ralph Goodale
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca
CC:
The Honourable Ahmed Hussen
Member of Parliament (York-South Weston)
Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship
ahmed.hussen@parl.gc.ca

The Honourable Arif Virani
Member of Parliament (Parkdale-High Park)
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship
Arif.Virani@parl.gc.ca

The Honourable Tracey Ramsey
Member of Parliament (Essex)
tracey.ramsey@parl.gc.ca

Justice for Migrant Workers
j4mw.on@gmail.com

Dear Minister Goodale,

We are writing to express concern about the removal of Gina Bahiwal, which has been scheduled for January 15th, 2017 at 9:30pm. She is married and has filed a Humanitarian and Compassionate application. Gina’s removal from Canada will impact not only her and her family, but a broad network of community members and Canadian society as a whole would lose an important and strong advocate on migrant rights issues in this country.

Gina came Canada from the Philippines in 2008 under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and has worked in vegetable packing, housekeeping, and fast food. Throughout her time in Canada, Gina has been a bedrock for justice in communities throughout Canada. This has included advocating tirelessly for the rights of migrant workers like her, particularly among migrant women. She has volunteered her time providing mutual aid and services to other workers, and has engaged in pivotal work exposing the exploitative practices of recruiters. Gina has appeared in the documentary The End of Immigration, helped organize the Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW) Pilgrimage to Freedom in 2011, gave a deputation on migrant rights to the HUMA Standing Committee, and was a key participant in the 2016 J4MW Harvesting Freedom campaign calling for permanent residency for farm workers and all temporary workers in Canada. Gina clearly made a significant impact on the HUMA temporary foreign worker program review. In the final report, Gina’s testimony is singled out for providing essential evidence about the conditions of female migrant workers in Canada, and the authors quote at length Gina’s testimony at pages 56 and 58 of the Report:

Gina Bahiwal provided an important gendered lens in understanding the temporary foreign worker program and the particular vulnerability experienced by women:

Access to health care is a problem for migrant women and injured workers. Migrant women who get pregnant and fired from work do not have access to health care. Injured workers who are being sent home cannot access health care here in Canada. – Gina Bahiwal, Member of Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada

The horrific reality of ignoring the medical needs of workers was highlighted by witnesses:

Women migrant workers who get pregnant while working here in Canada get fired, so they don’t have access to health care. One worker who I talked to last month lost her baby. She had to hide her tummy and put on a girdle so the employer would not see that she was pregnant, because she was afraid of being fired, and what happened is that she lost her baby. – Gina Bahiwal, Member of Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada

Why is someone who has worked so hard to advocate for migrant workers, and migrant women in particular – someone your own government relied on to help improve the system for others – now being deported? Your government recently announced the removal of the “4-in-4-out” rule and in doing so, your government committed to developing pathways to permanent residency so that temporary workers can more fully contribute to Canada. Gina worked hard along with other migrant justice activists to help bring about this important result. She is a model of hard work, perseverance and service, and has already contributed greatly to Canada. Her deportation would create significant hardship for her family and for all of us who have gotten to know and respect Gina as a friend, fellow community member and ally in this work.

We also understand that Gina’s application for permanent residence is close to being finalized and do not understand why she cannot remain with her family and community while she awaits the completion of her immigration process. For all these reasons, we are asking you to intervene and cancel Gina’s removal from Canada, which is scheduled for January 15, 2017 at 9:30pm.

Thank you for considering our request. We look forward to your prompt response.

[Name]

[Mailing address – so they know you are a real person]

Join the Caravan Grand Finale in Ottawa this weekend

Over the past month, we’ve brought the caravan to over 20 communities across Ontario. We’ve connected with more than 1000 migrant agricultural workers from Mexico, the Caribbean, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Guatemala and Peru. We’ve witnessed the will for political change across a surprising range of everyday people in Canada.

To get a taste of the impact Harvesting Freedom has had on the public conversation about migrant justice in Canada and internationally, check out some of the media coverage from the past month.

This weekend, we’re pumped for the caravan’s grand finale in Ottawa. Please join us in the caravan’s final push to demand STATUS NOW from the federal government.

  • Saturday, Oct 1: Migrant Dreams screening at One World Film Fest. Doors: 11:30am. Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington St., Ottawa. Tickets here.
  • Sunday, Oct 2: Flyering Ottawa Farmers markets. Email us for details: harvestingfreedomcampaign@gmail.com
  • Monday, Oct 3: CARAVAN BIG FINALE. It will happen from 12noon-1:30pm, 365 Laurier Ave West. This will include a demonstration in front of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to demand justice for the tens of thousands of farmworkers who have put food on Canadian tables for the last 50 years without any chance to lay roots in the country. RSVP on the Facebook event.

As we detail in this latest press release, in a 2014 open letter published by the Toronto Star, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged that in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, “Abuse is not rare. It is far too common, and it must end immediately.” He underscored Canada’s historical commitment to providing a path to citizenship for all those who come to Canada to work  and emphasized that Canada should not “follow the path of other countries who exploit large numbers of guest workers”. For 50 years, seasonal agricultural workers have been the bulwark of  agricultural food production, and yet they have no access to secure, permanent immigration status.

Justice for Migrant Workers is holding Prime Minister Trudeau to account and is demanding an end to this unjust and discriminatory policy.

Here are a few shots from our visit to Kingston earlier this week, where we had critical conversations with Queens University students about racism in Canada and worker resistance, and delivered migrant workers’ demands for status now to Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen.

Onward to Ottawa!

 

Care for a little justice with your wine?

Although the Niagara wine industry is becoming increasingly renowned for the quality of its grapes, at present the industry simply could not exist without migrant workers. Yet migrant workers are seldom celebrated amidst the bucolic imagery associated with wine marketing and agri-tourism.

We decided that a celebration of local wine ought to celebrate the contributions of migrant workers in our communities, and that such a celebration also ought to demand the conditions for health equity, justice and dignity among all those who produce wine grapes. So, we created a presence for migrant workers by joining the Niagara Wine Festival Grande Parade, with its 2016 theme of “Homegrown Niagara.”

Marching in the parade, we shared messages from migrant workers about their experiences, and we provided parade attendees with information about the Harvesting Freedom campaign for status on arrival. Coverage of our parade participation made it into the St. Catharines Standard and the Thorold Edition. Thanks so much to the dream team from the Niagara region who helped make our multi-part visit happen last week (including those who contributed photographs below from the event) especially Heryka Miranda, Dylan Powell, Rose Davies, Simon Black and many more.

Press Release: Angry migrant workers respond to TFW review by descending on Cambridge MP’s office

Press Release: Angry migrant workers respond to TFW review by descending on Cambridge MP’s office.
What: Delegation to Constituency office of Bryan May

Where: 534 Hespeler Road, Cambridge

When: September 20, 3:45 pm.

Who: Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is a grassroots advocacy group based in Toronto, Leamington and Mexico City. Composed of migrant workers and allies, we fight for improved rights and protections for workers in Canada’s various labour-migration programs including the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

Cambridge, September 20, 2016. Activist group J4MW is organizing an angry delegation to Bryan May’s constituency office today to respond to the deeply flawed Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) review. Members of J4MW will arrive at 3:45pm pm at May’s office which is located at 543 Hespeler Road Unit A4 in Cambridge, Ontario.

Bryan May served as Chair of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills, Social Development and Persons with Disabilities (HUMA), the committee that oversaw the TFW report.

“The report provides only band-aid solutions to a critical crisis facing our communities. We need to alleviate this crisis by granting permanent residency status for migrant workers,” says Claudia Espinoza, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW).

Justicia for Migrant workers is currently undertaking a 30-day caravan across Ontario to highlight the exploitative conditions faced by migrants working predominantly in agriculture. Today the caravan is in Cambridge with the delegation to May’s office and later this evening visiting with local allies in the Kitchener area.

“The Liberals provided a half-baked and extremely vague report that leaves many questions unanswered,” continues Espinoza. “We will continue to mobilize and to organize with migrant workers and their allies toward building a society where migrants are accorded dignity and humanity and we end the apartheid conditions that exists across Canada.”

The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) is a labour-migration program that brings tens of thousands of Caribbean and Mexican workers annually to toil in fields across Canada. Migrant workers who arrive under this program face many challenges working in Canada, including: having work permits tied to a single employer; being under constant threat of deportation by employers; and ineligibility for permanent residency regardless of how many years they have worked in Canada. See more information at the Harvesting Freedom Caravan website http://www.harvestingfreedom.org

The call for permanent immigration status on landing for migrant workers is the joint position of all major migrant worker groups in Canada, see http://www.migrantrights.ca

Media contact: Tzazna Miranda, 647 618 5325

Double visit to St Catharines 21 & 24 Sept

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Heryka Miranda and Juan Luis Mendoza de La Cruz performing as part of “The Sunflower Man” in April 2016. Photo: AMW

A couple of folks from St. Catharines have asked if there was a typo in our caravan schedule. Nope! We’re heading out there twice this coming week: once on 21st Sept, and again on the 24th. Please see below for details.

Thanks so much to community members Heryka Miranda and Rose Davies for helping to host us in St. Catharines. Like so many of the amazing volunteers who have helped make the Harvesting Freedom Caravan possible, Heryka has been engaged in inspiring collaborations with workers. You can learn about her dance therapy-based research project with farm workers in the Niagara region here

Wednesday Sept 21
The Harvesting Freedom Caravan will be in Brock University watching documentary films Migrant Dreams and hosting a community discussion from 5-8 pm. We will be in room THISTLE (TH) 258. Brock is at 1812 Sir Isaac Brock Way Street, St Catharines. This film is screened as part of Cinema Politica, in partnership with Brock’s sociology professor Jane Helleiner, who teaches a third year Global Migration class and local community activists. RSVP on the Facebook event

Saturday Sept 24
Demonstration at the Niagara Wine Festival Grande Parade, 9am-11am. Please join us at Montebello Park at the corner of Lake and Queen St for a demonstration to demand justice, and status, for migrant farm workers. We will be giving out information to the public, and displaying messages from local migrant workers about their experiences. You are welcome to hold a sign in their place, or bring your own sign. We will have limited materials on site for people to create their own signs. Get in touch if you want to take part (harvestingfreedomcampaign@gmail). Facebook event info here.

13-15 Sept: Solidarity vigil, Six Nations visit & WLU Brantford Campus discussion

Tonight (Sept 13) we are hosting a solidarity vigil to call for better housing for migrant workers. We’ll be meeting at the site of bunkhouse that burned down near Oakland, Ontario this past summer. Please meet us at 607 or 613 Burtch Road, Mount Pleasant, Brant, Ontario. See press release for more details.

Tomorrow (Wednesday Sept 14), we will be having a gathering with the Six Nations of the Grand River.

Also tomorrow (Sept 14), there will be a community/classroom discussion from 2:30-4pm at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Brantford Campus, Room OD-110, hosted by Professor Janet McLaughlin. The event will include a short film clip and panel discussion featuring documentary filmmaker Aaraon Diaz, migrant worker Gabriel Allahdua, and Lisa Diamond, a local resident who has led community efforts to support workers whose area bunkhouse was destroyed by a fire.

 

Sep 17-19 in Guelph and Waterloo, honouring Dr. Kerry Preibisch

We’re very excited for our upcoming leg of the caravan in Guelph and Waterloo.

harvesting-freedom-sept-17Saturday, Sept 17 (Guelph)
Film screening of Migrant Dreams. 7-9pm in Room 102, Rozanski Hall, University of Guelph. Director Min Sook Lee, Nandita Sharma and members of the caravan will join in a community panel/Q&A, moderated by Janet McLaughlin, following the screening. RSVP on the Facebook event. If you have accessibility needs, please contact Brad (organizational@opirgguelph.org). Please click here for full-size version of the film-screening poster.

 

 

Sunday, Sept 18 (Guelph)

The Caravan will honour the life and work of Professor Kerry Preibisch at a special academic forum in Guelph.

Monday, Sept 19 (Guelph)

We will pay a community visit to the WSIB office at 9am to demand justice for injured migrant farmworkers! They are located at 100 Stone Road West, Guelph.

Monday, Sept 19 (Waterloo)
Harvesting Change: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. Hosted by the Balsillie School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University, and the International Migration Research Centre.

Morning keynote:

Academic Panel:

[Lunch]

Community Panel:

Click on this event page for more details and registration. REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED.

poster

 

 

“It feels like the government just sells you out to a white man.”

“It feels like the government just sells you out to a white man.” – Terron Baptiste, September 9, 2016.

Terron Baptiste, a 30 year-old Trinidadian man in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, had his contract terminated at the farm he worked because he refused to do unsafe work that had previously injured him. Although farm workers in Ontario are legally entitled to refuse unsafe work, Terron’s story illustrates the tremendous gap between migrant workers’ rights on paper and in practice.

Terron’s employer routinely cut the hours of workers who he deemed troublemakers in order to bully them into returning back home. Terron described treatment at his work place as “feeling like slavery” and that he and the others were routinely treated “worse than an animals”, being routinely punished for needing water or being injured, given 15-minute lunches and having wages stolen for unexplained reasons.

Photographs courtesy of Christopher Katsarov Luna

Migrant Dreams screening 10 Sept: London welcomes Harvesting Freedom Caravan

This morning, the Harvesting Freedom Caravan visited the Covent Garden Outdoor Farmers’ Market in London to chat with customers about food justice. Check out our Twitter timeline for how it all went down.

Tonight, our friends in London are hosting a film screening of Min Sook Lee’s documentary Migrant DreamsCome and join us at the Bread and Roses Bookstore at The Bus Stop (870 Dundas St., London, ONT). The screening is generously sponsored by Cinema Politica. You can RSVP for the Facebook event here.

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Keep on, Caravan! Sept 8 Toronto Fundraiser

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Friends in Toronto, please join us tonight for a special Harvesting Freedom Caravan fundraiser!

When: Doors 8pm, performances at 8:30pm. Thursday, September 8th

Cost: $10 suggested donation, PWYC (No one turned away for insufficient funds). Snacks and drinks for sale. If you can’t come but would like to donate: https://harvestingfreedom.org/donations/

Where: A Space Gallery – 401 Richmond St. W #110 (enter the 401 Richmond building and follow signs for A Space Gallery).

Accessibility: The event is wheelchair accessible. There is a ramp at the front entrance. There are washrooms on the main floor that are large. The doors are not automatic, however.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/576684489185554/

Featuring:

Performances by: