History was made when a St. Lucian farm worker, who was subjected to racial slurs and sent back home, won his case which was heard by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. He was awarded thousands of dollars in damages.
The tribunal delivered a decision which found that a major greenhouse operator in Leamington, Ontario, engaged in racial harassment of Adrian Monrose by calling him a monkey on two occasions.
This is the first time a decision was issued by the tribunal in favour of a migrant farm worker.
In Monrose v. Double Diamond (citation: 2012 HRTO 1273) Monrose, who came to Canada as a migrant farm worker, was subjected to racist slurs by his employer during his second season working at the Double Diamond greenhouse. When he tried to report and challenge this mistreatment, his employment was terminated and he was immediately sent home to St. Lucia.
He eventually returned to Canada and filed a human rights complaint with the assistance of the Justicia for Migrant Workers group and human rights lawyer, Shane Martinez, who provided his services at no cost to Monrose.
The matter was heard this past March. Vice-Chair David Muir held that Monrose had indeed been subjected to racist abuse in the workplace. He was awarded $5,500 for lost wages, $3,000 for damages to his feelings, dignity, and self-respect, and $15,000 for violation of his right to be free from reprisal.
A number of persons testified at the hearing including Director, Centre for Studies on Social Justice, University of Windsor, Dr. Tanya Basok, whose research focuses on migration and migrants rights. Her insights were valuable to the decision. The vice chair acknowledged her comments in the tribunal document that migrant workers are very vulnerable and “rarely seek to vindicate what rights they have for fear of repatriation or not be asked to returned.”
Martinez, a human rights lawyer stated “This decision reaffirms the dignity and great worth of a hardworking man who left his family in St. Lucia to come to Canada as a migrant farm worker. Unfortunately, there are others whose stories are never told after they are repatriated and banned from the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program. The tribunal’s findings signal an urgent need for all levels of government to safeguard the human rights of migrant farm workers. One of the first steps towards doing this is to replace the outdated and unfair contracts that allow employers to commit abuses like those which occurred in this case.”
The tribunal ruled that Double Diamond develop a comprehensive human rights and anti-discrimination policy with the assistance of an expert in human rights law within 120 days of the decision. The operator do not currently have such a policy.
The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program has been in operation since 1966. A number of Caribbean countries participate in the program. Migrant workers employed under this program are tied to an employer, do not have equal access to social entitlements, are denied labour and social mobility and do not have the ability to apply for permanent residency to Canada.