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]

Media coverage

Join us at the Niagara Wine Fest 23 Sept and take action

grapeandwinefest

Niagara’s billion-dollar wine and grape industry relies heavily on the skill and sacrifices of migrant workers, who are mainly from the Caribbean and Mexico. Their economic and social impact is far reaching, yet they remain invisible and excluded from today’s celebration.

Since 1966, thousands of migrant workers have been employed in Ontario’s fields and greenhouses. Migrant workers are tied to an employer, are denied labour and social mobility and must return home when their contracts end. Even though they pay into Canada’s social safety net, migrant workers are denied many of the basic entitlements Canadians enjoy. If we peel back the veil, we can see the wealth of local wineries and vineyards occurs on the backs of unfree workers.

When migrant workers are injured or sick they are often sent home, thus downloading healthcare costs to the families of the sick and injured. Many of these workers are no longer able to work after sustaining injuries and sicknesses while working in Canada. Between 2001-11, 787 migrant farm workers were returned to their countries of origin due to illness or injury — 98% of these repatriations were not based on workers’ requests.

Dozens of migrants have died as a result of working conditions on farms. These include the deaths of migrant farm workers such as Ned Livingston Peart, Sheldon McKenzie, Omar Graham and  Ezequiel Cervantes-Nava, all of whom died from preventable workplace accidents. To date, there has never been a coroner’s inquest into the death of a migrant farm worker anywhere in Canada.

Farm workers are not entitled to overtime pay, holiday pay or many other protections under Ontario’s Employment Standard Act. Few protections exist for farm workers from pesticides, chemicals or dangerous working conditions.

TAKE ACTION:

Phone and/or email your Member of Parliament (click here to find them by your 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.

Phone and or email your MPP. 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 farm 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 practises that deny migrant workers equal access to benefits.

Thank you for acting in solidarity with Arthur Lorenzo

Thank-you message to supporters for sending letters of solidarity for Arthur Lorenzo, calling for his deportation to be cancelled.Thank you for acting in solidarity with migrant activist Arthur Lorenzo. Within 24 hours, at least 303 people took the time to write letters to Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale calling for him to cancel Arthur’s deportation order. The CBC published also published an article yesterday about the heartbreaking deportation of this migrant justice whistleblower.

Unfortunately, last night Arthur was told by the federal government that the request to stop his removal was denied (see CBC coverage of the deportation here). He left for the Philippines last night. Before his departure, Arthur thanked everyone who phoned their MP, wrote letters to the Minister of Public Safety and stood in solidarity with him. His final message to us was: don’t give up fighting for myself and all the other temporary foreign workers in Canada.

With Arthur’s message in mind, please join us in continuing to support rights and dignity with migrant workers. The Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada has launched a campaign to urge open work permits and permanent status upon arrival.

Please email Ministers Hajdu and Hussen before 30th January: http://migrantrights.ca/en/take-action/#email

Once again, thank you for supporting Arthur Lorenzo, and for supporting our previous campaigns such as successfully halting the deportation of migrant activist Gina Bahiwal. Justice for Migrant Workers will be issuing additional call to actions in the weeks ahead.

Let’s continue this collective struggle in demanding justice for all migrant workers.

Urgent: Prevent migrant activist Arthur Lorenzo’s deportation

cbc-photo-of-arthur

Arthur Lorenzo. Photo credit – CBC: http://bit.ly/KZ3UFR

Arthur Eisma Lorenzo Jr is a migrant worker who has been deeply involved in migrant rights activism and community-based work with LGBTQ refugees. As just one example of Arthur’s courageous advocacy, he participated in this CBC video interview about the exploitative conditions he faced as a restaurant worker in Labrador City (his employer’s permit was temporarily suspended). Now, Arthur is facing deportation on January 26th, 2017 at 10:30pm.

A couple of weeks ago, we asked people to send letters of solidarity calling for a stay on migrant activist Gina Dahiwal’s deportation. It was a long shot, but it worked.

Please email Minister Ralph Goodale today to ask him to stop the deportation (CC Minister Ahmed Hussen, Parliamentary Secretary Arif Virani, and MP John Aldag, and Justice for Migrant Workers). We’ve included a template email below.

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 John Aldag
Member of Parliament (Cloverdale-Langley)
John.Aldag@parl.gc.ca

Justice for Migrant Workers
j4mw.on@gmail.com

Dear Minister Goodale,

I am writing to express concern about the removal of Arthur Eisma Lorenzo Jr, which has been scheduled for January 26th, 2017 at 10:30pm. Arthur was instrumental in exposing workplace injustices while working in Labrador City in 2014. Since his arrival in Canada, Arthur has made positive contributions both in  Labrador and British Columbia by participating in numerous organizations and advocating for a broad array of communities. By deporting Arthur, Canadian society as a whole would lose an important and strong advocate for migrant workers.

Arthur Lorenzo came to Canada from the Philippines in June 2011 under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and has worked in the hospitality and customer service industry.  While in Canada, Mr. Lorenzo has tirelessly and courageously advocated for improving the living and working conditions of migrant workers in Canada. In 2014,  Arthur acted as a whistleblower by exposing exploitative working and living conditions he and his colleagues had endured. His advocacy was profiled in a CBC Newfoundland exposé that documented his experiences working in Labrador City.

Unable to find work in Labrador, Arthur resettled in British Colombia, where he has been an active member of the West Coast Domestic Workers Association; a volunteer participant and social group co-facilitator with the Rainbow Refugee Society; a volunteer participant with Mosaic Settlement services, and an active member of Vancouver Association of Survivors of Torture (VAST). Through his extensive volunteer activities advocating for compassion and fairness for vulnerable groups, Arthur has been a pillar in numerous communities. He has attempted to transform his own negative experiences by helping others who face barriers to inclusion.

Arthur’s advocacy has also focused on the intersection of LGBTQ and migration issues, a group that faces unique vulnerabilities under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program. Through volunteering, educating and advocacy, Arthur has provided crucial leadership in an emerging area of policy.

Arthur has made significant sacrifices to come to work to Canada. Taking a stand against workplace abuse has also come at a cost to him. By courageously speaking up about exploitative working conditions, Arthur has played a key role in shedding light on problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. He should be given the opportunity to remain in Canada, obtain work, and continue his vital community-based work. As the federal government is about to announce changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program on January 30th, the moral and humane step is to defer Arthur’s deportation.

I am asking you to intervene and cancel Arthur’s removal from Canada, which is scheduled for January 26, 2017 at 10:30pm.

Thank you for considering this request. I look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

[Name]

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

We have until Jan 30th: Demand open work permits for all migrant workers

We have until January 30th! Demand open work permits for all migrant workers. Email the minister: migrantrights.caAmong all of the indignities low-wage migrant workers face, being ‘tied’ to one’s boss is among the worst.

Because of tied work permits, workers hired under low-wage streams of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (including the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program) are only permitted to work for a single employer at a single location. If low-wage migrant workers encounter an abusive employment relationship, if their job or housing makes them sick, or if a frost destroys the crop for which they were hired to harvest, then changing employers is often extremely difficult in practice.

We have a key opportunity to end the injustice of tied work permits. The federal government is scheduled to announce new policies for migrant workers on  January 30th. Please take action right now by emailing Employment Minister Patricia Hajdu and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen at this link: http://migrantrights.ca/en/take-action/#email

If you’re on Twitter, you can also tweet at the Ministers here.

As evidenced by Gina Bahiwal’s recent victory, we know that organized grassroots power can make a difference in the struggle for migrant justice. Let’s ensure an end to tied work permits today.

New article from Toronto Star on Gina Bahiwal

“A migrant worker who has stood up for fellow workers and become a public face of the labour rights movement is facing deportation herself, caught up in the very rules she fought successfully to change.”

copy-of-pic-296

Migrant activist Gina Bahiwal at the launch of Harvesting Freedom in Ottawa in 2015. Ms. Bahiwal is now facing deportation on January 15th, 2017.

Check out today’s article in the Toronto Star by Nicholas Keung on Gina Bahiwal, a prominent migrant justice activist who is facing deportation from Canada on January 15th: https://www.thestar.com/news/immigration/2017/01/12/unsung-hero-facing-deportation-under-rescinded-rule.html

Three ways to show solidarity with Gina:

  1. Email Minister Ralph Goodale (and others) calling him to stop Gina’s deportation. Template letter here.
  2. 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.
  3. Write a letter to the editor of the Star expressing your support for Gina, why you care about this issue, and why she shouldn’t be deported. Very short letters are fine! 

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]