Migrant workers launch Harvesting Freedom

Chris Ramsaroop
Chris Ramsaroop

Launching the Harvesting Freedom Campaign in Ottawa this week, Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW) representatives renewed their call for resident status for those workers.
“Better conditions. That’s all we ask,” said Ricky James , an agricultural worker from Saint Lucia.
“The best solution is permanent residency. It wouldn’t change the number of workers. It wouldn’t change anything other than you working in better conditions.”
The organization’s Chris Ramsaroop, who is of Trinidad and Tobago heritage, stressed they are fighting for the workers’ families “and for those who follow us to toil in Canada’s fields.
“United we fight so that migrant workers are provided with status upon arrival. We demand action from the Liberal government,” Ramsaroop said.
Ramsaroop said J4MW, also known as Justicia, launched the Harvesting Freedom Campaign on Monday as they protested outside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office in Ottawa and that the press conference kicked off their year-long permanent residency campaign.
Earlier in the month, Ramsaroop said, Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn had refused to meet with injured migrant workers to discuss their concerns about working conditions, workers’ compensation and access to healthcare.
“When will the racial discrimination end for migrant workers and when will we end their unequal access to basic protections in the workplace?” Ramsaroop asked.
He noted nothing short of permanent residency will cure the ills of Canada’s “exploitive” migrant worker programs.
Ramsaroop said 2016 marks 50 years since the federal government started bringing in foreign workers to help the Canadian agriculture sector deal with a labour shortage that’s never ended. The program is officially called the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.
He argues that if the workers had immigration status, employers would be pushed to improve working conditions, in order to keep those workers.
“As permanent residents, these workers would be entitled to most social benefits including health care and would be free to work or study anywhere in the country. They would be given the opportunity to apply for citizenship.”
Ramsaroop added that J4MW is seeking donations of latex gloves and masks for migrant workers working in greenhouses.
“Workers complain of chemical exposure due to insufficient protective gear that is often reused when they shouldn’t be. Workers told Justicia organizers that they pay out of their own pockets for this equipment.”