End Canada’s legal discrimination against people with disabilities

Image of Josarie Danieles and quote from her on what it has been like to spend years away from her daughter.

Josarie Danieles has been separated from her daughter Precious Ann for seven years. Seven painful years of missed birthdays, family holidays, and touching screens rather than hugging her child.

Josarie came to Canada and worked as a Caregiver. She has fulfilled all the requirements, and should have been granted permanent residency. But she is being denied because Immigration Canada believes her daughter would cause an ‘excessive demand’ on the health care system.

Many Caregivers provide highly-skilled support for Canadians with disabilities, and yet they cannot bring their own children with disabilities to join them in Canada. Likewise, Caregivers who become ill or injured on the job in Canada while they are in the qualification period to become permanent residency can be denied permanent residency under the ‘excessive demand’ clause.

A Federal Parliamentary Committee is currently looking into this issue. Add your name right now to an Open Letter from the Coalition for Migrant Worker Rights Canada and urge them to end ableist laws. When you add your name, the letter below will be emailed the appropriate Members of Parliament.

Organizations and individuals can also make written submissions to the committee via email cimm@parl.gc.ca by November 15th. 

Take Action in Solidarity with Migrant Farm Workers!

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The New York Times just published Foreign Farmworkers in Canada Fear Deportation if they Complain focusing international attention on Canada’s shameful exploitation of foreign workers. Participants in Canada’s migrant farm worker program courageously shared their stories with the NYT, which include medical repatriations, horrific housing and working conditions, and pressure from government officials not to complain.

The article implicates both the Canadian and foreign governments for failing to oversee working conditions and for denying migrant workers the same rights and protections as Canadians. Problems with Canada’s low-wage migrant worker program have been well documented by advocates, researchers, and media, but after the Trudeau government commissioned a review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in 2016, it recommended  virtually no changes for the farm worker streams. Further, provincial governments often shirk responsibility by pointing out that the migrant worker program is federally administered. It’s time for all levels of  government to recognize the serious problems with the migrant farm worker program and commit to ensuring the same rights and protections for all workers in Canada.

Amidst the bald-faced white supremacy we’re seeing today, many people ask us how they can show solidarity with racialized low-wage migrant workers. Here are four easy things you can do:

  1. Share the article on social media, and tweet it to @AhmedDHussen and @PattyHajdu.

  2. Phone and/or email your Member of Parliament. 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.

    4. Migrant worker protections under the NAFTA renegotiation.

  3. Phone and or email your MLA/MPP. Ask them to ensure:

    1. Both occupational health and 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, stop the practice of medical repatriations whereby sick and injured  migrants are sent home, and end discriminatory workers compensation practises that deny migrant workers equal access to benefits.

  4. Fill out A Food Policy for Canada survey by 31 Aug. Demand that migrant and workers’ rights be prioritized as part of Canada’s national food policy (mention the bullet points above).

In solidarity,

Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture & Justice for Migrant Workers

NY Times slams Canada’s migrant farm worker scheme

Photo of Erika Zavala harvesting carrots on an organic farm in Cawston, British Columbia. Photo Credit Ruth Fremson of the NY Times.

Erika Zavala, 32, a seasonal worker from Mexico, weeding rows of plants in the organic carrot farm where she works near Cawston, British Columbia. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Migrant farm workers from BC and Ontario asserted their strength by sharing their struggles with an international audience. Today’s New York Times article by Dan Levin explains how Canada’s migrant farm worker scheme invites dangerous, unhealthy and exploitative conditions for migrant farm workers by its very design.

“This program is a form of apartheid,” said Chris Ramsaroop, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers, a labor rights organization based in Ontario.

“Migrant workers are employed and live under a different set of legal rights than Canadians,” Mr. Ramsaroop added. “The very existence of temporary foreign worker programs enables the Canadian government to deny basic freedoms and protections as a result of their immigration status.”

 

Although they aren’t mentioned in the article, hats off to our friends at Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (especially Amy Cohen) for helping bring this piece to light.

This criticism by international media — which is underpinned by decades of research and advocacy — shows that justifications for Canada’s migrant farm worker program are wearing thin in the public eye.

What’s missing in media coverage of the new Auditor General report on the TFWP

Photo of Auditor General Michael Ferguson by Adrian Wyld, Canadian Press.

Michael Ferguson, Auditor General. Photo: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press: http://bit.ly/2qgk5U1

On May 16th, Michael Ferguson, the Canadian Auditor General, released a new report on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). Much of the media coverage on the report has missed some key points. Some coverage has also risked pitting migrant workers against unemployed and marginalized residents of Canada, particularly Indigenous peoples.

To be clear, migrant workers do not lower wages or steal jobs. Inadequate wages, unemployment and a lack of employment equity occur because of specific state and capitalist policy choices. The absence of standards or enforcement is a policy choice, too. In the case of low-wage streams of the TFWP, governments create policies that allow capitalists (aka employers) to access racialized, unfree and deportable workers from the Majority World. Consequently, workers have weak workplace bargaining power and can’t easily demand better wages and working conditions.

In response to the report and mainstream media coverage, we suggest the following points and questions :

  • Growth of agricultural streams of the TFWP: While the number of migrant workers in other streams has decreased in recent years, agricultural migrant workers have skyrocketed
    • e.g. in 2014, there were 47,477 migrant worker positions approved in Primary Agriculture — this is a rough proxy for the number of migrant farm workers. In 2015, there were 53,303 positions approved.
  • Xenophobia: Media articles that frame migrant workers as stealing jobs from Canadians are dangerous, inaccurate and irresponsible. Worldwide, we have witnessed the alarming effects of fomenting xenophobic sentiment, and particularly in the wake of Brexit and the Trump election.
  • Decrease in # of ‘low-skilled’ migrant workers: The report cites a massive decrease in the number of ‘low-skilled’ workers following Conservative Party reforms to the TFWP.
    • What happened to these people? How many were deported, repatriated, are still here, transitioned to permanent residency, sought other forms of immigration status ie student, other occupation, refugee status, etc.?
  • The role of CIC and CBSA: The report only examines Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), but neglects to consider the role of Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Canada Border Services Agency, both of which play a key role in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
  • Agricultural exceptionalism: There is no discussion on why there has not been any greater scrutiny of the agriculture sector.
  • Workers are people: The report treats migrants as mere economic units, rather than human beings with individual and collective rights.
  • Recruiters: The report speaks to employment recruitment efforts without examining the role of third party recruitment agencies in bringing migrant workers.
  • Precaritization of jobs: The report provides commentary about the hiring of marginalized people without considering broader trends in the precaritization of employment (i.e. insecure, low-wage, unprotected and informal jobs with limited or no benefits)
  • Timing and industry: The report does not examine the time spent by migrant workers in Canada. Specifically, the report examines Labour Market Impact Assessment approval without examining the labour attachment of these TFW’s to the industries they worked in.
  • Four-and-Four: How did the Four-in-and-Four-Out Rule impact migrant workers in low-skill streams of the TFWP? How many were forced to return to their countries of origin, despite the eventual rescinding of this rule?
  • EI: For those workers who collected EI, how many were able to access special or regular benefits? How many claimed benefits as a result of termination, abuse or job conflict?
    • Members of the public and advocacy groups have requested EI data on the TFWP for years, only to be told that a breakdown does not exist. The report shows it does exist.
  • “Risk-based approach”: The report discusses the use of a “risk-based approach” to workplace inspections. What does this look like, how was it developed and how will it be implemented?
  • Fed-provincial: With respect to federal-provincial agreements on the TFWP, only one province has signed this with the federal government. Migrant workers must be actively included as part of deliberating on these agreements.
  • Inspections: the numbers of inspections are shocking — 4,900 paper inspections and 173 onsite inspections, only 13 of which have been completed.
  • Reprisals: What steps will the federal and provincial governments take to protect workers who are terminated or lose jobs because they assisted with investigations?
  • Exploitation by design: Extreme cases of abuse are of course a problem, but the Auditor General doesn’t comment on how the Temporary Foreign Worker Program invites exploitation by design because of the fundamental structure of the program — driven by employers, with workers tied to their employer.
  • Performance measurement strategy: The report states that ESDC has now developed a “performance measurement strategy” to assess the impact of the TFWP on the Canadian labour market.
    • What are the metrics used for this measurement? Will this strategy ensure the rights of all workers are upheld, especially those of migrant workers?

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.

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.

BREAKING NEWS: Deportation order against migrant activist Gina Bahiwal cancelled

Drawing of Gina Bahiwal during the Justice for Migrant Workers Harvesting Freedom campaign

Art: Tzazná

After an outpouring of support from all across Canada, the deportation order for migrant activist Gina Bahiwal has been cancelled. Huge thanks to everyone who took the time to write letters of support; grassroots public pressure makes a difference. Gina’s struggle was also supported by dedicated work from her lawyer, Richard Wazana of Wazana Law.

Please see our full press release here.

Upon hearing the news, here is what Gina had to say:

This is a victory for all migrant workers, however the fight is not over yet. Myself and the other workers are going to continue to organize and to fight against the injustices of our immigration where we are tied to a single employer. The only solution is permanent immigration status on arrival for all temporary foreign workers. Thank you to everyone who showed solidarity with me. Let’s continue to organize together so we create a society based on compassion and fairness for all workers, migrants and Canadians.

– Gina Bahiwal, Migrant activist

Justice for Migrant Workers is continuing to fundraise for Gina’s legal fees. If you would like to show further solidarity with Gina, you can place a secure PayPal donation here and indicate it is for Gina’s legal fees: https://harvestingfreedom.org/donations/

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.”

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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]

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