Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is a volunteer run political
non-profit collective comprised of activists from diverse walks of life
(including labour activists, educators, researchers, students and youth
of colour) based in Toronto, Ontario, and now in Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada. We are engaged in this work alongside our personal commitments
and numerous social justice struggles.
strives to promote the rights of migrant farmworkers (participating in
the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program and the Low Skilled
Workers Program) and farmworkers without status. Promoting workers rights
entails fighting for spaces where workers themselves can articulate their
concerns without loosing their work or being repratriated. We start with
workers' knowledge and concerns and and collectively devise strategies
to make necessary changes. We see ourselves as allies and strive for a
movement that is led and directed by workers themselves.
Our work is and has to be transnational in scope. It considers the context
of sending countries, Canada's complicity in benefitting and creating
poverty in the Global South, and most importantly we consider families
left behind, primarily children and women who are very much a part of
migration but who are always forgotten in the equation of migrant farm
collective is is motivated by experiences shared and lessons learned from
migrant farm workers over the course of more than nine years of community
outreach in rural Ontario. As allies, activists and friends we believe
migrant workers deserve work with dignity and respect!
In April 2001 a small group of us formerly associated with the labour
movement traveled to Leamington, Ontario to investigate a serious labour
dispute among Mexican migrant workers. The labour dispute had resulted
in the early repatriation of over 20 workers. Identifying workers from
the farm in question proved quite difficult due to fear and trust factors.
However, workers from other farms eagerly voiced a plethora of problems
and concerns. The workers' response to investigative mission was overwhelming
and positive. Workers explained that they seldom had a chance to be heard
and that their daily struggles were ignored. Throughout various investigative
missions in Leamington and outreach to Caribbean migrant workers in other
areas it became clear that migrant agricultural workers were acutely neglected
Grass-roots organizing drew the
attention of several government officials and documentation conducted
by volunteers formed the basis of the Migrant Farm Workers in Canada 2001
Report that was presented to the Minister of Labour. Relationships of
trust and contacts in various regions throughout rural Ontario convinced
us of the necessity to continue community organizing in rural Ontario.
In the summer of 2002 we formed Justicia for Migrant Workers, (J4MW).
We hope broaden our work to contribute to a strong agriculture workers'
movement through the unity of SAW and non-SAW program participants.
are not the first group to attend to this cause. There has been numerous
attempts to organize migrant farm workers throughout the decades in Canada.
We are committed to sustain this work and engage the challenges of organizing
with migrant farm workers.
more about our history and principles see:
Justicia Organizational Profile
Justice for Migrant Workers: Why We Will March
Global Research, April 30, 2008
by Chris Ramsaroop
Migrant Farm Workers: Reflections on the Importance of Community Organising
RELAY Magazine, July/August 2006
by Evelyn Encalada
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 win 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 Ontario's
Employment Standards Act, Fair and decent housing, the right to form unions
and the right to social and economic mobility in Canada.
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.
- community outreach in migrant communities in rural Ontario and in sending
communities in Mexico and the Caribbean
-develop and conduct workshops around various issues including migrant
women's specific concerns
awareness of the plight of migrant workers
- document workers' complaints
- research varous aspects of migrant agricultural labour in North America
- lobby government to change policies of SAWP and other guest worker program
that created an indentured form of labour
- build community coalitions with similar organizations across the Americas
- educate workers about their rights
- aid workers solve employment and housing problems
- empower workers to stand up for their rights
- engage in ongoing training of legal issues affecting migrant workers
- connect migrant workers with human rights organizations in their home
- stimulate action among migrant workers, host communities and the public
- respond to emergency immigration problems
- create spaces for both Caribbean and Mexican migrant workers to dialogue
and strategize in their own terms
- send workers care/reading packages to their farms to ease isolation
- build a movement/campaign that is based on workers experiences and involves
workers, ultimately is driven by workers themselves
- continually question our assumptions and our privileges
- link the struggles of migrant workers with processes of globalization,
structural adjustment and rural displacement
- have a long-term commitment to carry out this work
- be accountable to workers
- follow through on commitments we make
- create sustainability by building alliances with other groups and communities
where workers live
- carry out work in a way that builds and preserves relations of trust
- build the capacity of and empower workers
-build our own capacity and knowledge as volunteer community organizers
-build our understanding of historical processes of migrant labour and
workers in Canada
- include an analysis of gender, sexuality, class and race in our work
J4MW works closely with Consuelo Rubio from the Centre
for Spanish Speaking Peoples. Consuelo has worked diligently on behalf
of migrant workers on her own time. Consuelo uncovered that workers could
apply to EI parental leave benefits.
We also collaborate
with ENLACE (Community
events and fundraisers in the past have received sponsorship from Alternative
Grounds; The Toronto Women's Bookstore; Toronto Hispano; CKLN; CHRY; CERLAC;
OPIRG York; OPIRG U of T; Black Youth United; The Centre for Anti-racism
Studies (OISE-UT), Canadian Chiapanecan Women for Justice, Canadian Labour
Congress and CUPE 3903.