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Report/Press release





Justicia for Migrant Workers


J4MW Responds to comments made by Canadas High Commissioner to Jamaica, Claudio Valle

Series title

Justice For Migrant Workers

Full text

Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW), an advocacy group for the rights of migrant farm workers in Canada is demanding that the Canadian government take immediate action in response to comments made by Canadas High Commissioner to Jamaica Claudio Valle. In a statement on Tuesday December 3, 2003, Mr. Valle suggested that the government of Canada may bar Jamaican migrant farm workers from coming to Canada due to allegations of drug smuggling and a high desertion rates by Jamaican workers.

J4MW finds the comments made by Mr. Valle mask the real issues faced by migrant farm workers in Canada. Issues such as wage discrimination,
workplace exploitation, lack of health and safety protection, overtime work without overtime pay are some of the serious problems faced by workers while they are in Canada.

It is absurd that representatives from the Canadian government would
threaten the people of Jamaica which such statements without acknowledging the abysmal living and working conditions that many migrant farm workers must endure during their terms of employment here in Canada says David Melville a member of the Justicia for Migrant Workers Collective.

Mr. Valles comments are symptomatic of a larger ignorance of the importance migrant farm workers contribute to the Canadian agricultural
industry. Since 1966 tens of thousands of migrant farm workers have worked in Canada. In 2001 alone approximately 20,000 migrant farm workers came to Canada to work under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker program (SAW).

Since 1966, these workers have been integral to the survival of the Canadian agricultural industry but have been denied basic rights enjoyed by millions of workers.

Workers from the Caribbean and Mexico come to Canada for up to eight
months of the year but are treated like second class workers in every
sense of the word. Mr. Valles comments are insulting and indicative of the underlying racial discrimination that permeates the SAW program says Nicole Wall a member of Black Youth United.

Justicia for Migrant Workers is demanding that the Canadian government immediately take steps to address the exploitation faced by migrant farm workers in Canada. Enclosed is a list of demands that the Canadian government must undertake.

For more information, please contact: info@justicia4migrantworkers.org
Chris Ramsaroop chris.ramsaroop@utoronto.ca

Justicia for Migrant Workers demands that the Canadian Government take immediate steps to address issues faced by migrant farm workers. Issues must include the following:

*Health and Safety legislative protection: Thousands of farm workers are not covered by health and safety legislation. This means that workers do not receive adequate health and safety training, they do not know what pesticides or dangerous chemicals that they work with. In 2002 Jamaican farm worker Ned Livingstone Peart died while working in the tobacco fields near Brantford, Ontario. There still has not been a coroners investigation into his death.

*Job discrimination: Workers have told representatives of Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) that they receive less pay than Canadian workers working side by side with them in the fields of southern Ontario.

*Right to Employment Insurance: In 2001 it was estimated that migrant farm workers put into the EI fund over $11 million a year yet they are denied to apply for returns from this program. The federal government must create a regime whereby migrant farm workers can claim employment insurance.

*Right to regularization: Workers must have the right to apply for citizenship in Canada. Since 1966 workers have been simply seen as a
labour force that is brought and then returned after their contract is
over. Many workers want the right to apply for Canadian citizenship.

The government must listen to their needs and implement a process whereby workers can apply for Status in Canada.

*The Right to be treated with respect and dignity: Workers consider
themselves to be an invisible workforce that have little clout when
dealing with either employers or governmental officials. It is essential
that migrant farm workers are covered by legislative protection that
guarantees minimum labour standards. This must includes full coverage
under Ontarios Employment Standards Act, Fair and decent housing, the right to form unions and the right to social and economic mobility in

*Right to Appeal: Workers have complained that they work in virtual bondage. Several workers have documented cases where their colleagues have faced reprisal for standing up to demand better work and living conditions. Reprisals take the form of premature repatriations where workers are sent home usually at their own expense. An appeal process must be implemented to guarantee that migrant farm workers have the right to a fair and impartial process where they can tell their side of their story.


Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers

Content types

Policy analysis

Target groups

Policymakers and Public awareness

Regulation domains

Right to change employer, Right to choose place of residence, Right to unionize, Labour standards, Health and safety at work, Newcomers integration programs, Health care & social services, Access to permanent status, Free employment services, Family reunification, Legal aid, Employment insurance, Social security, Remittances and co-development programs, Trips abroad and re-entries, Recrutement / placement agencies, Housing standards, Migration expenses reimbursement mechanisms, Impartial hearing before deportation, Status regularization procedures, Determination fair wages and labour shortage, (Im)migrant workers selection criteria, Right to equality (gender), Right to equality (national origin), Right to equality (social status), Right to liberty, Right to dignity, and Right to privacy

Geographical focuses

Canada, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, British Columbia, Other provinces, Federal, Jamaica, and Nova Scotia