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MIGRANT WORKERS IN CANADA DEMAND JUSTICE by Chris Ramsaroop

posted 19 Feb 2020, 07:34 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Feb 2020, 08:42 ]
Image result for chris ramsaroopTrinidad born Chris Ramsaroop is a founding member of Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW), a grassroots collective of community, labour, and migrant activists in Ontario, Canada.

TO THE LEADERS OF CARICOM AND THE BROADER CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY


As Canada lobbies members of Caricom for a seat on the UN Security Council, we take this opportunity to highlight the labour and human right conditions faced by Caribbean and Mexican migrant labourers who are employed in Canada under the auspices of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (CSAWP).

Since 1966 hundreds of thousands of Caribbean migrant workers have toiled under precarious and exploitative conditions as a result of restrictive immigration laws that bind workers to one employer and labour laws that deny agricultural workers rights and benefits that workers in other industries enjoy.

While Canada’s Agricultural industry has greatly prospered as a result of the contributions and sacrifices undertaken by migrant labour, the same cannot be said for the workers. Since 2001 members of J4MW have documented numerous examples of injustices. To be clear this is not about one or two rotten apples but a structure that prospers from an unequal power balance that favours employers.

Countless workers have raised concerns about being disbarred from the program for simply exerting their rights at work. Hundreds, if not thousands, of workers have been injured or sick whose health has vastly deteriorated as a result of being denied equal access to healthcare in Canada and an arbitrary and discriminatory system of unilateral repatriations that download healthcare costs to an already overburdened system in the Caribbean.

Benefits and entitlements such as Employment Insurance (EI) have been significantly curtailed denying migrant farm workers and their families equal and fair access into a system that their hard earned wages pay into.

Retired migrant workers are denied equal access to Canada’s social safety net. Old age security benefits, working tax benefits and guarantee income supplement benefits that
Image result for trudeau in black faceCanadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was scheduled to attend the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting held in Barbados on February 18th and 19th.

His trip was cancelled at the last minute, because of the growing revolt by the Indigenous and environmental movement in Canada which has shut down rail transport across the country.

They demand that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police withdraw from their ancestral lands as it moves to enforce a court injunction against Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs and their supporters who have been blocking construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a key part of the $40-billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas export project.

There have been numerous demonstrations across Canada in support of the move to 
block the building of a natural gas pipeline which encroaches on indigenous territory and has caused major disruption to the Canadian economy.
Canadian and permanent resident workers enjoyed are denied to migrant workers in spite of their decades of contributions to Canada’s social safety net.

While the Caribbean has been shaped by a vibrant and militant labour movement the same cannot be said for Canada where Agricultural workers are denied access to the right to organize and to collectively bargain - a right that should be enjoyed by all workers. Recently a Divisional Court ruling made it clear that agricultural workers are exempt to overtime pay; a right that is enjoyed by migrant workers in other industries.

Recently Canada has implemented a system of biometrics that criminalizes the Caribbean community on their entry to Canada. This is in addition to other attempts by Canadian security officials to criminalize and racially profile Caribbean labourers in Canada.

In 2013, near London Ontario a group of approximately 100 migrant workers from the Caribbean were subjected to a racially discriminatory DNA sweep where the farm workers felt compelled to provide their DNA to the police.

Promised that their DNA would be destroyed after a thorough investigation it was discovered that the DNA from the workers would be kept forever. The workers were targeted because they were migrant labourers from the Caribbean; something that should be concerning to all those who care about fairness and justice.

To date in spite of the countless deaths that have occurred because of deplorable, dangerous and deadly conditions there has never been a proper investigation into any of the deaths of Caribbean or other migrant workers. Across Canada there has never been an inquest into the death of a migrant farm worker.

As Canada has expanded Canada’s migrant labour scheme called the Temporary Foreign Worker program, we have received numerous complaints of Caribbean nationals paying thousands of dollars to unscrupulous recruiters and immigration consultants with the promise of work, work that doesn’t exist. Rather than the necessary regulations and oversight exist Canada and its provincial counterparts have turned their backs on the most vulnerable workers in our society.

Canada’s overtures to seek admission to the UN Security Council should be roundly dismissed. Rather than discuss Canada’s attempts to greatly enhance its power and influence, the focus should be on the human dignity of the women and men who put food on the table for millions of people across Canada and the world.

Canada has long enjoyed a colonial relationship with the countries of the Caribbean. From predatory practices of Canadian banking institutions to the role of Canadian companies operating in extractive resources, Canada has immensely profited off of the land, sea and people of the Caribbean.

We urge and compel you to stand up and take a firm stand to demand answers from Canada. The Caricom doesn’t need platitudes but an end to practices that imperil migrant labourers to conditions of unfree labour in a so called first world country.

We urge you in joining us in denouncing Canada’s 54-year history of racism and indignation and create a system where migrant farm workers are no longer treated like indentured labourers while in Canada and once they return.
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