Update on fire fundraiser

fire1Spring has arrived, and many of our brothers and sisters on the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program are returning to southern Ontario. We thought we would take this opportunity to provide an update on a story that happened at the tail end of last year’s season.

On the morning of July 29, 2016, 32 migrant farmworkers from Jamaica lost all their belongings when a fire destroyed their bunkhouse in Mount Pleasant, Ontario. All they were left with were the clothes on their backs.

Justice for Migrant Workers made repeated trips to Mount Pleasant to meet with those who were affected by the fire and to assess the situation. Some of the workers were preparing a shipment of items to send back home to family in Jamaica. However the fire destroyed everything. Tools, passports, and other items were all lost. Some workers also reported that they lost their savings, as they didn’t have bank accounts in Canada and kept all their money in the bunkhouse.

A GoFundMe page was started, and donations also poured in from the community. The total amount raised for our brothers in Brantford reached $21,984. Just over half that amount was raised online, while a very special donation of $10,000 was received from the Jesuit Refugee and Migrant Service.

fire2In October 2016, just before the workers returned home at the end of the season, two Justicia volunteers traveled to Brantford and provided each of the 32 workers with cheques for $687. The gratitude was overwhelming, and important bonds were built which will hopefully last through many seasons to come.

An additional victory was the announcement that the Jamaican consulate would waive all fees associated with replacing the passports. This came after steadfast pressure from Justicia and other groups standing in solidarity with the workers.

Next steps

Migrant farmworkers are employed in one of the most marginalized and oppressed sectors of Canadian society. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized their work as being some of the most dangerous there is. As migrants they face additional risks due to their precarious status in Canada, the fact that they’re not permitted to unionize, and their social isolation. Yet despite this they work hard to put Ontario produce on the plates of families across our province and beyond, typically without ever receiving adequate recognition or gratitude.

We were proud to have enabled community assistance in this situation, and we encourage everyone to continue with support and advocacy throughout 2017.

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

Support Ned Peart (hearing postponed until the Fall 2016)!

Ned Peart

This is Ned Peart. He was crushed to death by a tobacco kiln while working as a migrant farmworker in Ontario. His family together with Justicia for Migrant Workers have been fighting for over 10 years to change the laws so these kinds of accidents don’t happen again.

The hearing for his case was scheduled for March but was postponed until the Fall of 2016. We will need your support then and we will keep you updated! Help us pack the courtroom and also show our support to Mr. Peart’s family!