An independent tribunal decided two Jamaican farm workers seriously injured in a car crash should continue to be covered after their contracts ended.
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The Ontario government is challenging a decision by an independent tribunal that OHIP coverage should continue for two seriously injured migrant farm workers from Jamaica.
Kenroy Williams and Denville Clarke, who came to Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), were among nine Jamaican migrant workers caught in a car accident in August 2012 while being driven by their employer to a farm in Oakland, Ont.
Williams suffered injuries to his neck, chest and lower back and a mild traumatic brain injury, while Clarke suffered whiplash and a spine injury. One passenger was killed and others were also injured.
The workers’ contract with Chardy Produce Ltd. expired on Dec. 15, 2012, and their OHIP coverage was terminated on the same date.
“Migrant workers come to Canada healthy and want to return to their families healthy at the end of the season,” said Jessica Ponting, of the Industrial Accident Victims’ Group of Ontario community legal clinic, which is assisting the injured workers.
“It’s not right, and the consequences are devastating, when Ontario sends migrant workers home after an injury without proper medical treatment.”
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 duo in medical emergencies.
On Thursday, the Ontario government filed a notice asking the tribunal to reconsider and reverse the decision. A health ministry spokesperson confirmed the information but declined further comment.
“In the Appeal Board’s view, the (migrant workers’) entitlement to OHIP coverage depends on their residency status, how it was acquired and how it can be lost,” the three-member tribunal panel in its Aug. 16 decision.
“This begs the question as to how and when do SAWP participants cease to be residents in Ontario.”
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 and the Canada Pension Plan, and are covered by OHIP during their stay. However, their resident status normally ends when they finish their jobs and return to the homeland at the end of the season.
The government said workers who come to Ontario under the SAWP program are entitled to OHIP only until their work permit expires.
“A visitor permit is not an OHIP-eligible immigration document,” Brad Murphy, a manager for the OHIP Eligibility Programs, wrote in a letter to the workers in December.
“There is no authority in the regulation to allow the (health) minister or any other person to use discretion to provide health insurance coverage to an individual who does not meet the definition of a resident.”
However, the tribunal said extraordinary circumstances such as medical emergencies could prevent SAWP participants from returning to their country of origin at the predetermined date.
“That is what occurred in this matter, as both appellants were involved in a motor vehicle accident and continue to receive medical treatment in Ontario,” it said in its decision.
“The appeal board finds that in such circumstances, there is nothing in the relevant regulation to support a finding that the appellants do not continue to be residents of Ontario under the Health Insurance Act.”
- File Attachments
- Economic sectors
Agriculture and horticulture workers
- Content types
Documented cases of abuse
- Target groups
Public awareness and NGOs/community groups/solidarity networks
- Geographical focuses
Ontario and Jamaica
- Spheres of activity