Injured farm workers could lose OHIP coverage

By Gerald V. Paul

Last Thursday, the Ontario government filed a notice asking the an independent tribunal to reconsider and reverse the decision that OHIP coverage should continue for two seriously injured migrant farm workers from Jamaica.

“It’s not right, and the consequences are devastating when Ontario send migrant workers home after an injury without proper medical treatment,” said Jessica Ponting, of the Industrial Accident Victims’ Group of Ontario community legal clinic, which is assisting the injured workers, Kenroy Williams and Denville Clarke.

According to Ponting migrant workers come to Canada healthy and want to return to their families healthy at the end of the season.

Both farm workers came to Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP) and were among nine Jamaica migrant workers caught in a car accident in August 2012 while being driven by their employer to a farm in Oakland, Ontario.

Williams suffered injuries to his neck, chest and lower back and a mild traumatic brain injury, while Clarke suffered whiplash and a spine injury.

The workers’ contract with Chardy Produce Ltd expired on December 15, 2012, and their OHIP coverage was terminated on the same date.

Williams and Clarke have remained in Canada on visitors’ visas past their contract expiry in order to receive treatment. The Health Services Appeal and Review Board of Ontario ruled last month that the province must continue to provide health coverage to the two men in medical emergencies.

About 25, 000 migrant farm workers come to Canada under SAWP each year and spend up to eight months here helping with planting and harvesting.

They pay income taxes, contribute to employment insurance