Migrant worker's brother welcomes Human Rights hearing

The brother, of Jamaica farm worker, Ned Livingston Peart, who was crushed to death while working on a tobacco farm near Brantford, Ontario 10 year ago, says he is relieved that the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal is listening to evidence regarding his brother’s death.

The Peart family sought to have a coroner’s inquest held into the death because their communications with Mr. Peart led them to have concerns over dangerous working conditions on the farm.

The Office of Chief Coroner denied the request. Working with Justicia for Migrant Workers’ organizers, the family then brought a complaint to the Human Rights Commission in the summer of 2005 claiming that the Coroners Act, which provides mandatory inquests for certain types of workers while excluding others, violates the Ontario Human Rights Code by causing adverse impacts not only on Mr. Peart but all migrant farm workers in Ontario

Wilbert Peart, the dead farm worker brother, told The Camera that he had almost given up.  “To see what is happening here today is a long wait and I did not wait in vain.”

The first day of hearing started on Wednesday morning with over 50 people turning out to show solidarity. “This is very significant. Nothing like this ever happened and it’s significant for migrant workers and their families,” Chris Ramsaroop, spokesperson for Justica for Migrant Workers.

Wilbert Peart and Chris Ramsaroop took the stand in the morning on the first day of the five-day hearing.

Peart, who travelled from Jamaica to take the stand, said his dead brother who was the provider for six children, had big plans for his family and a business he owned in Jamaica with the earnings he made from working on the farms in Canada.

His desire is to have the OHRT make a ruling that would allow the coroner’s office “to do an inquest and put closure to how he (his brother) died and for future workers, who will die on the job; it would be mandatory for them to do an inquest so that the same thing does not repeat itself all over again,” Peart said.

“This case is of historical importance because it seeks to ensure a safer working environment for all migrant workers in the province by requesting an inquest into Mr. Peart’s death as well as wider systemic reforms in how the Office of Chief Coroner investigates the death of migrant agricultural workers. There has never been a coroner’s inquest into the death of a migrant worker,” J4MW said.