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.
Many, many thanks again to everyone who phoned, emailed, tweeted at and met with MPs to stop Gina Bahiwal’s deportation. We are darn lucky that this champion for migrant justice will be staying (for a year, at least) in the place known as Canada. This example shows that when the conditions are right, organized grassroots power makes an enormous difference.
As Gina mentions in this new article published by the Toronto Star, the fight isn’t over. Let’s leverage this collective success by continuing to organize for broad-based changes to end the racial, economic and social injustices faced by migrant workers writ large. This includes ongoing campaigns for permanent status on arrival for all migrant workers in Canada.
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/