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Website Update: July 5, 2012
Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is a volunteer driven collective committed to organizing with and for migrant farm workers (irrespective of status), their families and social movements in respective countries of origin.
As an autonomous grass-roots community group, we see ourselves as part of the radicalization of the existing labour movement and fully support workers, principally racialized and excluded migrant workers, in taking leadership in their own struggle as Canada shifts toward controlled labour migration to subsidize its economy.
Justicia/Justice for Migrant Workers” is the recipient of the following awards:
Open Letter to the Mayor of Leamington John Paterson over recent comments on ‘Jamaican’ migrant workers
Sep 3, 2013
Demand Justice for Ned Livingston Peart:
Friday June 28th, 2013
Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) invites the community to attend the closing day of the historic Human Rights Tribunal examining the workplace death of Ned Livingston Peart, a Jamaican migrant farm worker who was killed working in a tobacco farm in rural Ontario. This case is intended to bring forward changes to prevent workplace deaths and injuries and to improve working and living conditions of migrant farmworkers in the province. There has never been an inquest into the death of a migrant worker under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program in Ontario or anywhere in Canada.
BOLETÍN DE PRENSA
Organización canadiense de apoyo a trabajadores migrantes, con apoyo de organizaciones mexicanas y estadounidenses, denuncian al gobierno federal canadiense por desmantelar las prestaciones y beneficios sociales que recibían trabajadores agrícolas mexicanos en Canadá, y lanza campaña en ambos países por la restitución de tales beneficios.
CONFERENCIA DE PRENSA: Jueves 21 de febrero, 10:30am
Justicia for Migrant Workers
February 6, 2013.
Open letter to Premier-Designate Kathleen Wynne
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the deaths of eleven people in Hampstead, Ontario. One year later, the survivors and the families of the deceased are still left with many questions but with few answers about how and why this accident took place.
In the past year, many community and labour organizations rallied together to urge changes so that accidents like this one never happen again. We urged the Office of Chief Coroner to conduct its first ever inquest into the workplace deaths of migrant workers employed under the Federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program. We also met with Ministry of Labour officials to advocate for reform of labour laws to protect Ontario's most vulnerable communities. But our requests have been ignored. The Chief Coroner’s refusal to further investigate one of the worst workplace accidents in the history of Ontario sends a message that the lives of those who perished -- most of whom were migrant workers -- matter less than those of other workers. We remind you that there has NEVER been an inquest into the death of a migrant worker in the Province of Ontario.
Employment standards, Occupational Health and Safety and Workers Compensation remain woefully inadequate denying equal access to rights that all workers deserve. At the same time, migrant workers are not provided with special protections against reprisals for attempting to enforce their rights at work. Temporary foreign workers remain at the mercy of unscrupulous recruiters and contractors who can charge exorbitant recruitment and placement fees.
We urge you undertake the following steps:
• Review the decision not to undertake an inquest into the Hampstead accident
• Strengthen anti-reprisal mechanisms so that migrant workers can enforce their rights at work
• Ban all recruitment and placement fees for all temporary foreign workers
• Modernize Ontario labour laws to protect the most vulnerable workers in the province
• Write a letter to the federal government urging them to provide permanent immigration status for the survivors of the Hampstead accident
Premier Wynne, you have on many occasions referred to yourself as Ontario's 'Social Justice Premier'. We can think of no better way to put those words into action than by taking the necessary steps to protect the most precarious and marginalized population of workers in Ontario. To do nothing is not only a disservice, but dishonours the memory of all those men who died in an accident that could have been prevented.
Migrant workers deserve equal rights in Ontario. Currently these rights barely exist on paper. It is incumbent on your office to take the necessary steps to ensure justice for the families of the deceased and dignity for the survivors. This province must take its responsibility to protect precarious workers seriously by enacting meaningful and proactive legislation that protects all workers
Justicia for Migrant Workers Collective
J4MW CALL TO ACTION
Restore EI Rights for Migrant Workers
Tell Canada Don’t Be a Scrooge, Restore Migrant Workers Rights to Benefits
Diaspora Column Editor’s Note: In October, travelling to Guyana from Toronto, I noticed that nearly all of the passengers were men, hauling bags of various shapes and sizes. They were temporary farm workers, heading home to Trinidad and Tobago in the off season. The man I sat next to had been coming to Canada for over eight years. This column is dedicated to them, and to all those who leave the Caribbean under similar work programs in order to support families at home.Complete Article: Link, PDF
Dear J4MW allies,
Over the last days Justicia for Migrant Workers has been sending information about the devastating and unjust news about recent Federal government’s announcement to eliminate Employment Insurance (EI) special parental, maternal and compassionate benefits for migrant workers starting on Dec 9th.
The Toronto Star has written both an editorial and a news item based on J4MW’s concerns over the recent elimination of Employment Insurance Benefits (maternity, parental and compassionate care). Special benefits are extremely important for migrant workers and their families because they provide income support to take care of new born babies, and ailing family members. We must fight against this tremendous injustice along with the workers and we need the support of all of you.
We need to keep the momentum!! Below there is a list of actions you can do to support this fight:
2) Write a letter to the editor to express your outrage over how migrant workers are treated in Canada. In your letter you can highlight the following:
a. Your concerns over the cuts to EI special benefits for migrant workers and the impact that this will have on migrant workers and their families back home
b. Explain why you think this benefit should be restored and why migrant workers should be entitled to all benefits that Canadians receive.
c. Demand the benefits to be restored, not exempted
d. Emphasize that the solution is full inclusion and expansion of access to EI benefits forall workers rather than exempting migrant workers from EI deductions from EI. This `solution’ will only further their exclusion and marginalization perpetuating a ‘second class’ citizens status.
*To get a letter to the editor published it should be no more than a 150 words. Emphasize one key point and send your letter in the next 36 hours.
3) Send the article to your Member of Provincial Parliament (MP) and ask them where do they stand on this issue and what steps will they take to restore EI benefits for migrant workers?
4) Take a picture and tweet it!
Migrant workers and community activists have been sending Diane Finley, Jason Kenney and their local MP’s photos and messages expressing their outrage over these cuts. Links to pictures and messages below
Thank you for your support and engagement to fight for Justice for Migrant Workers!!
ATTN: ALL NEWS EDITORS
Migrant rights activists denounce Canada’s Federal Government for stripping away Employment Insurance benefit for migrant workers
December 10, 2012
(Toronto) Migrant worker advocates are angered and shocked to learn that the Federal Government is once again attacking one of Canada’s most vulnerable populations.
Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Diane Finley announced on December 6th the elimination of Employment Insurance (EI) special benefits (parental, maternal and compassionate benefits) for migrant workers employed under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program. The minister failed to report that these workers will continue to pay into this social protection fund, as they have been doing so since 1966, yet now will no longer be able to collect these benefits.
Junior Sylvester a twelve year veteran of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program says “The elimination of these special benefits violates the nature of the Employment Insurance act that was put into place to protect our families and our children from falling into poverty".
“For over forty years migrant workers have been subsidizing Canada’s EI fund yet have been ‘ineligible’ to receive full benefits, and now they are being completely stripped away from the few special benefits they were able to access. This is completely unjust and outrageous” says Justicia for Migrant Workers’ organizer Adriana Paz Ramirez. Given this situation, Paz Ramirez states that “the fight right now should be to restore this benefit and to fully include migrant workers into social protection programs rather than eliminating access and reinforcing a system that perpetuates exclusion and marginalization of migrant workers”.
For migrant workers, injury often means a one-way ticket home
After Eloid Drummond was hit by a car in Exeter, Ont., and suffered a dislocated shoulder, he was declared “AWOL” by his employer — and Canada — because he refused to quietly go home to Jamaica.
Unable to continue farm work, he was terminated from Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Program, and hence lost his social insurance card and health coverage for his injuries.
Being labeled AWOL (absent without leave) also meant he couldn’t be rehired within the program, which each year brings in 25,000 foreign farm workers from Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America.
On Friday, after fighting repatriation ever since the May 2010 accident, Drummond, 39, will finally get badly needed surgery on his right shoulder at Humber River Regional Hospital.
Had it not been for Drummond’s stubborn determination, he would have become just another number on Service Canada’s AWOL list.
According to government statistics, 3,709 migrant farm workers were deemed AWOL in the program between 1996 and 2011. A further 1,198 were sent home for medical reasons during that period, and 2,923 were flown back due to “breach of contract.”
Chris Ramsaroop, of Justicia for Migrant Workers, a grassroots advocacy group, said injured workers may be covered under workers’ comp. But there are generally no modified jobs available on farms, and farmers are under no obligation to rehire the worker for the following season. It’s easier to simply send injured workers home, where they may find it difficult to get proper treatment or to communicate with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. Often they end up not getting the compensation they’re entitled to.
“Rather than provide full access to healthcare in Canada, migrant workers are repatriated, or unilaterally sent to their home country,” Ramsaroop said, describing the situation as a catch-22.
“If they decide not to return home and seek medical and legal support here, they are then determined to have gone AWOL.”
Drummond, a fisherman and farmer from St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, came to work at a greenhouse in Exeter in 2005. Since then, he has spent eight months each year in Canada, harvesting and packaging sweet peppers.
On May 28, 2010, Drummond was on his way to his bunkhouse after sending money home to his family in Jamaica when a vehicle hit his bicycle at an intersection on Exeter’s Main St. He was thrown off and landed on his back.
Drummond claimed the driver ran a stop sign. But police charged Drummond instead and slapped him with a $110 fine for not riding within the marked lane (Drummond says there was no marked bike lane).
“He gave me two weeks to pay the fine, but I said, ‘I’m not wrong. I’m not going to pay the ticket. It’s not my fault,’” Drummond recalled.
While recovering at his bunkhouse and working reduced hours with modified duties, Drummond said, he was called into his boss’s office in July 2010 and handed a one-way ticket to Jamaica.
Although the charge was dismissed and Drummond has managed to remain here legally on a visitor’s visa, he is unable to work and has had to fight to get his shoulder fixed.
He finally got the driver’s car insurance company to foot a $5,000 bill for the complex reconstructive shoulder surgery he needs.
But the road to recovery will be long, said Drummond, who has been living on meagre savings, help from friends and small payouts from the insurance company.
“I need six weeks of physiotherapy and it’s going to take another six months for recovery,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to live on.”
Urgent – Community Appeal
Brother Eloid Drummond is an activist and injured migrant worker from Jamaica whose shoulder was hurt last year on his way to work. Because Eloid is a migrant worker he is excluded from getting many basic human rights; including social assistance and OHIP. As a result of being forced to pay for ALL his healthcare, Eloid he has been unable to pay for the surgery that would re-attach his arm. While he waits for the slow wheels of justice to turn, Eloid struggles to get by on no income, with a lot of pain and with little to eat. Despite these injustices, Eloid is a committed activist and organizer who fights for the rights of all workers.
Eloid asked us to reach out to people who could assist him at this time. If you would like to contribute, or if you would like to host a fundraiser in your community, please contact: Beryl Brown (Bright Lights) at 416-244-3368 or Jessica Ponting (Justicia for Migrant Workers) at 647-401-9611 or Alberto Lalli (IAVGO Community Legal Clinic) at 416-924-6477. Thank you!
'Remembering the Dead, Standing up for the Living' March and Vigil to Commemorate
Who: Migrant workers, community allies and Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW)
Six months have passed since the tragic accident that killed eleven people near Hampstead, Ontario. Amongst the dead were 9 migrant chicken catchers from Peru. The impact of this accident has been felt across the hemisphere as families struggle to cope in the wake of this accident. To commemorate the sixth month anniversary, Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is organizing a March and Vigil entitled “Remembering the Dead, Standing up for the Living”. It will take place Sunday July 22, 2012 starting at noon.
Working with the survivors of the accident, the march and vigil is being organized to raise awareness of the thousands of migrant workers who have been injured, become or sick while working in Canada.
The survivors of the crash, Javier and Juan, wish to break the invisibility not only of their situation but to raise the profile of the conditions faced by migrant workers across Canada. Their message is clear: Federal and Provincial laws designed to protect migrant workers don’t work! Fundamental steps need to be taken to ensure that migrant workers are treated with respect and dignity. Our demands are as follows:
We are asking you to join us on Sunday July 22nd, please organize within your community by
Fundraising letter for your local/community group***
September 25, 2011
Windsor - Leamington - Chatham - Dresden
October 2, 2011
Simcoe - Brantford - Hamilton - TORONTO!!!!
The caravan will end in Toronto with a march and celebration, featuring a great line up of speakers and performers such as Rosina Kazi from LAL. Join us as we make labour history!!
Coverage of our Sept 4 action:
Pilgrimage to Freedom Caravan 2011
Last year, over 150 migrant workers and their allies made history by marching over 50 Km, an equivalent of 12 hours, from Leamington to Windsor, Ontario demanding justice, respect and dignity for the hundreds of thousands employed under the auspices of Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Programs. After years of harassment, intimidation and exploitation, migrant workers organized and took to the streets to stand up to these abuses.
The march called the 'Pilgrimage to Freedom: Breaking the Chains of Indentureship' ended in Windsor at the Tower of Freedom that is dedicated to those who travelled the underground railroad. The monument was chosen as the ending point to reflect on the connections of past and the present to slavery, indentureship and statelessness that renders racialized peoples as non-citizens. Over the last year, thousands of people have heard the testimonies and the stories that led to organizing the march. Demands for permanent residency and citizenship status, an end to repatriations and deportations, labour law reform, equal access to social entitlements and an end to the coercive role of recruiters and contractors has inspired many others about the realities faced by migrant workers in Canada.
Migrant workers and members of Justicia for Migrant Workers have continued to organize in rural Ontario and are once again demanding that the chains of indentureship in Canada be broken. This year the pilgrimage continues as a form of a caravan across rural Ontario. Migrant workers and their allies will be recreating the stops of the underground railroad to pay tribute to the important struggles of resistance that we base our struggle upon.
J4MW is requesting the support of community, religious, labour and allied organizations to join us for this year's action. Migrant workers and their allies will be calling community meetings, and organizing meetings across south western Ontario. This year's actions will take place across several communities. If you are interested in further information feel free to contact Justicia for Migrant Workers. Tentative dates for stops on the caravan include
September 4, 2011
Niagara on the Lake, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls
For more details on the Niagara Action click here
September 25, 2011
Windsor, Leamington, Chatham and Dresden
October 2, 2011
Simcoe - Brantford - Hamilton - Toronto
5 PM EST, April 29, 2011
Supreme Court listened, they ruled and they failed!
Migrant workers struggle to continue despite recent
Supreme Court decision!
(Toronto): In the face of the utter contempt by Canada’s highest court, Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) reaffirms its commitment to the struggle for migrant justice in Canada. Today, the Supreme Court failed to address issues raised by Justicia for Migrant Workers relating to agricultural worker self-determination, to ongoing racism in Canadian society and to the inherently exclusionary impact of Canada's immigration laws. The Court's ruling in Fraser reinforces the hyper-exploitative and apartheid-like conditions faced by hundreds of thousands of migrant workers across Canada.
While the recent decision reflects an ongoing unwillingness in this country to deal with its racist past and present, migrant worker organizing will not be deterred. J4MW will continue to work with migrant workers to take matters into their own hands to assert their dignity and to assert control over their everyday lives.
“Canada's temporary foreign worker programs are based on our country’s ongoing legacy of slavery and indentureship” says Adrian Smith, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers. "Canada’s immigration and labour laws systemically deny migrant workers to exert their rights through the traditional legal framework. Workers will take action into their own hands irrespective of what the courts say. We do not need to the Supreme Court to tell us these schemes are racist. We have history on our side” continues Smith.
Justicia for Migrant Workers continue to demand:
By KIRK MAKIN
Globe and Mail Update
The Supreme Court of Canada dealt a harsh blow to the union movement today, ruling in favour of an Ontario law that restricts the right of farm workers to bargain collectively.
The Court said that the constitutional right to free association guarantees that "meaningful" negotiations take place between workers and their employers - but it is not intended to police the mechanics of how those negotiations take place.
"What is protected is associational activity, not a particular process or result," the majority said. "The Ontario legislature is not required to provide a particular form of collective bargaining rights to agricultural workers, in order to secure the effective exercise of their associational rights."
The case was seen as a key test of the constitutional right to free association, a section of the Charter of Rights that has evolved less than many others.
Since 1999, the number of temporary foreign workers from Latin America and the Caribbean employed in Canada's agricultural sector has tripled. Most temporary workers on farms are men, but the number of women is on the rise. In Canada, female temporary foreign workers endure precarious working and living conditions on the farms and face gender-specific challenges. This policy brief documents this new trend in temporary migration and highlights the vulnerabilities of female workers employed in Canada’s agricultural industry.
Justicia for Migrant Workers was recognized at the 15th Annual JS Woodworth Awards, March 21, 2011:
"For Justicia for Migrant Workers' outstanding commitment to advancing the rights of visible minorities and immigrants, and eliminating racial discrimination."
Online courtesy of the NFB: El Contrato follows Teodoro Bello Martinez, a poverty-stricken father of four living in Central Mexico, and several of his countrymen as they make an annual migration to southern Ontario. For eight months of the year the town's population absorbs 4000 migrant labourers who pick tomatoes for conditions and wages no local will accept. Under a well-meaning government program that allows growers to monitor themselves, the opportunity to exploit workers is as ripe as the fruit they pick. Grievances are deflected by a long line of others "back home" who are willing to take their place.
Despite a fear of repercussions, the workers voice their desire for dignity and respect, as much as for better working conditions. El Contrato ends as winter closes in and the Mexicans pledge, not for the first time and possibly not the last, that it's their final season in the north.
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