Call for permanent resident status for migrant farm workers

By Gerald V. Paul

Farm workers and supporters meet at Kingsville community centre in Southern Ontario before the "Harvesting Freedom" caravan left Leamington, Ontario.
Farm workers and supporters meet at Kingsville community centre in Southern Ontario before the “Harvesting Freedom” caravan left Leamington, Ontario.

“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.

banners 2 fpJusticia for Migrant Workers which organized the caravan , said the petition is calling  on the Trudeau government to grant migrant farm workers permanent residence in Canada.

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.