Show solidarity with Erika and Jesus, who were repatriated after receiving a delivery of food!

Erika and Jesus, two migrant agricultural workers from Mexico.

Erika and Jesus, two migrant agricultural workers from Mexico, were recently repatriated from a farm in Kelowna simply because they received a delivery of food and clothes.

Erika Zavala and Jesus Molina, both migrant farmworkers from Mexico, were recently fired from a B.C. farm simply because they received a delivery of cultural food and work clothes.

They are devastated after losing their income for the season. Erika and Jesus had been counting on working in Canada until October to support their children and elderly parents. The shutdown of the Mexican economy due to COVID-19 has severely reduced opportunities for jobs back home, and there is no government support. You can read more about their story in The Guardian.

This Labour Day, one very meaningful way you can show solidarity with migrant agricultural workers is by donating to help Erika and Jesus cover their lost income: https://www.gofundme.com/f/show-solidarity-with-erika-and-jesus

We are enormously thankful to everyone who has donated so far in this GoFundMe fundraiser coordinated with our friends at RAMA Okanagan. It also means a lot to Erika and Jesus to know that so many people in Canada care about them. All funds raised go directly to Erika and Jesus.

Can you help us reach the final stretch of our fundraising goal?

If it’s within your means, we welcome donations here.

“It’s almost like racism will never be over.” A migrant farm worker calls for an end to being treated like “a modern-day slave”

Over 670 migrant agricultural workers have been confirmed positive for COVID-19 in Canada, and two comrades have died. Activists have been predicting these outbreaks for months.

How many more migrant farm workers will need to fall ill before the government starts valuing the lives of people of colour from the Global South? It’s time for the the federal government to give #statusnow for all migrant workers! It’s also time for the province to end the differential treatment farm workers receive under provincial labour standards.

Please sign our petition here.

A migrant farm worker who is currently working in Canada shares the following message from the frontlines:

“..migrants are facing too much struggle here in Canada when they are a major factor to Canadians’ needs and even Canada’s economy… see how this young migrant worker from Mexico died…. right now his body is left at his family’s expense to get him back to Mexico for a proper burial… This shouldn’t be when he been playing a major factor in Canada’s food chain and economy. Migrant workers are almost no good to Canada when they are no longer able to meet the needs of their Canadian employer.. Shouldn’t be.

It’s almost like racism will never be over.

Migrant workers should be stopped treated as modern-day slaves…conditions we have to live in… working humiliation and belittleness we have to face… It’s almost like racism will never be over… we shouting Black Lives Matters.. but what really matters?? What’s the concern… police killing Black citizens… that’s the only Black life that matter… the migrant workers.. most are of the Black race… so it’s same racism against we migrant workers we are facing… for what?? coming here to perform task Canadians don’t want to do… meet needs and demands of Canadians.. contribute to major part of Canada’s economy.. I mean since before I came here as migrant worker, migrant workers been treated this way… racism same way.. When will it ever stop??? Will it ever stop?? Or should I do like others and speak on behalf of my fellow migrant workers and just agree I’ll be sent home and denied coming back here..

Your only opportunity is to get another job as a migrant worker on some farm.. If not you sent home and maybe replaced. Like, that’s all migrant workers are good for??

The only chance migrant workers do have in Canada is as a migrant farm worker… nothing more.. no other benefits… for example me.. being here.. since March 23rd.. haven’t been working.. no income.. have been contributing to Canadians needs and Canada’s economy for the past 4 years.. now I’m out a job.. no money.. Am I to just sit here hungry till my time visa expire and return home.. That’s how it is? Or maybe steal a chance.. work under table.. no benefits … like others been doing??? More serious stuff should be put in place for migrant workers here… If you lost a job as a migrant farm worker.. Your only opportunity is to get another job as a migrant worker on some farm.. If not you sent home and maybe replaced. Like, that’s all migrant workers are good for??

Migrants ain’t Canadians, doesn’t mean migrants ain’t human.

A lot of changes need to be done… a lot more opportunities need to be put in place for migrants workers seeing we are playing and contributing so much to Canada and Canadians… They need to open up more doors to migrant workers beside the opportunity of just working on a farm, financially… things need to be put in place for migrant workers to obtain financial benefits during times like now…. Clearly if you a migrant worker and for example not working like times like now.. how can you take care of your family back home which you came here to provide for in the 1st place.? Migrants ain’t Canadians, doesn’t mean migrants ain’t human.

Now he is dead, he is of no good to Canada cause he can’t physically provide the needs and wants of Canadians and automatically it’s his family expense and duty to make sure his back home for burial.

Health wise.. a lot more need to be done when it comes for migrants health here in Canada, this young man left his family to provide for them.. but also to contribute to the demands and need of Canadians and even Canada’s economy by extension.. Now he is dead, he is of no good to Canada cause he can’t physically provide the needs and wants of Canadians and automatically it’s his family expense and duty to make sure his back home for burial. Some form of benefit or insurance should be put in place… he’s no longer a bread winner to his family as a result of death in another country as a migrant worker yet its his families expense to get him home.. What about the impact an contribution he made to Canada upon living his family. He’s dead, he could easily be replaced like we would often be humiliated with these words by farm bosses, what about his family?? Who to contribute and provide for them?? A lot need to be done.. Migrants come here to work and make a better life for the love ones back home and more so to provide the Canadians with their daily food and other services… more opportunities for better lives of migrants workers, migrant worker families should be put in place..

when you are no longer of good health or no longer meet the criteria of serving as a modern-day slave, you are then replaced.

Even with migrant workers being going back and forth for certain amount of years contributed to Canada’s economy and needs of Canadians is only accessible to specific work permit given the chance to only work on farms.. open work permits for migrant workers to further provide for them self, further contribute Canada’s economy, meet the needs and demands of Canadians, in which they could now be comfortable and eligible to other benefits because migrants are humans too. Some reason it is felt like migrant workers are only to be as modern days slaves here in Canada and when you are no longer of good health or no longer meet the criteria of serving as a modern-day slave, you are then replaced.

 

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]

Media coverage

URGENT call for solidarity with injured apple worker Kevon Smith

SMITH-1

We are calling on supporters of Justice for Migrant Workers to please show solidarity through your material resources through the following Go Fund Me campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/helpforkevon

Kevon Smith, a migrant worker and father of five, suffered serious injuries while working on a apple farm near Simcoe, Ontario.

After his workplace injury, Kevon’s employer attempted to send him back to Trinidad and Tobago. Kevon knew this was not right, resisted and remained in Canada to access health care for his injuries and fight for  workers’ compensation from the WSIB.

Kevon’s doctors told him he will likely need surgery, but WSIB still refuses to provide him the financial support that would enable him to get it.

IAVGO Community Legal Clinic is helping Kevon challenge this unfair decision, but his status as a migrant worker excludes him from accessing other forms of income support programs. This means that at the moment he is far from home, severely injured and virtually penniless.

We are asking if you can provide some financial support as soon as possible to help Kevon with living costs through this crisis. He needs the funds now and will be able to access it within days of your donation.

Kevon is the sole breadwinner for himself and his young family.  This crisis has made them destitute. Your support is greatly appreciated.

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.

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.

Leveraging the success of cancelling Gina Bahiwal’s deportation order

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Photo from Toronto Star: http://on.thestar.com/2jbm9KP

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.