By Gerald V. Paul
“Harvesting freedom,” a migrant farm workers caravan, which left Leamington, Ontario on September 4 last , rolled through several agricultural communities in Southern Ontario this week on its 1,500- kilometre journey to Ottawa to present a petition to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Immigration Minister John McCallum.
The caravan expects to arrive in Ottawa by October 1.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program through which tens of thousands of Caribbean and Mexican workers are brought to Canada to work on farms.
Chris Ramsaroop, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers, told The Caribbean Camera that these workers are hired for several months each year and on completion of their contracts, they are required to leave Canada.
” Workers on the program cannot apply for permanent residence,” he said.
Farm workers deserve status now,”’ Ramsaroop declared.
He also noted that workers on the program are assigned ” to a particular employer.”
The petition notes that, “being tied to an employer creates vulnerable working and living conditions that further imperil migrant farm workers and put them in dangerous and precarious conditions.”
Gabriel Allahadua, a migrant worker from St. Lucia who has been hired on a farm in Leamington for four years, said being ” tied to a single farmer is a recipe for exploitation.
“The moment you speak out, you are sent back.”
On their journey to Ottawa, members of the ” Harvesting Freedom” caravan have been meeting with farm workers in various parts of Southern Ontario
At press time on Wednesday (yesterday), about one thousand persons from various towns in Southern Ontario had signed the petition, Ramsaroop reported.
Copies of the petition will also be delivered to two other federal government ministers – Lawrence Mac Aulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agrifood and MaryAnn Mihychuk, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.