Chris Ramsaroop of Justice for Migrant Workers is calling on the community to petition Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others as they celebrate Harvesting Freedom: 50 years of farm-worker resistance in Canada.
“Status for migrant workers; sign the petition and share with everyone,” Ramsaroop said.
Ramsaroop also delivered a letter to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, launching a rights complaint against the Workplace Safety Insurance Board for injured Jamaican farm worker Robert Sulph.
Ramsaroop, of Trinidad and Tobago heritage, told The Camera, “This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program that has brought thousands of Caribbean and Mexican migrant farm workers to toil in fields across Canada.”
He said migrant workers under this program are tied to their employer, have no access to residency status and must return home after their contract despite how many years they worked in Canada.
Ramsaroop said the letter noted “as Canadians, we rely on migrant workers to put food on our table and be the backbone of the agricultural industry. The program has become a permanent part of our labour migration system, with workers often returning to the same farms and communities year after year for decades with no ability to settle or integrate into the communities that depend on their labour.
“Migrant workers under the program have few rights and are tied to their employer, have no access to permanent residency status and must return home after their contract.”
The letter continued, “Over the past 50 years countless workers have described the conditions under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program as inhumane and unjust. From being sent home for standing up for the rights at work or after an injury, to be denied equal access to our healthcare system, migrant workers face differential treatment than residents of Canada.”
Ramsaroop said the letter stresses 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.
“Whether it’s workplace deaths such as Ned Livingston, a Jamaican migrant worker killed in a workplace accident in 2002 in Brantford, Ontario to the forced DNA sweep of 100 Caribbean migrant workers near London. Ontario, migrant workers are facing risks and violations of their dignity and rights that must end.
“In this 50th year of the program, migrant workers and allies are organizing to demand that the Canadian government provide permanent residency status for all migrant workers. We the undersigned echo and endorse this demand.”
“Permanent immigration status on landing for farmworkers and all migrant workers in Canada.”
Justice for Migrant Workers started the petition with a single signature and now have over 430 supporters.
To sign the petition, visit www.change.org.
Ramsaroop noted that Jamaicam migrant worker Sulph worked in Canada for 24 years and was seriously injured while working at a tobacco farm near Delhi, Ontario, in 2013.
Since returning home in Jamaica, his health has deteriorated as a result of WSIB policies that, Ramsaroop says, racially discriminate against migrant workers and their access to health care.