CANADA, July 31, 2020 — Migrant Food and Farmworker organizations in British Columbia, PEI, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec are responding to today’s announcement by the federal government of another $59 million dollars directed to the agri-food industry and government by reiterating our call for full and permanent immigration status for all. Without full and permanent immigration status, all other measures will fail to protect workers’ lives and livelihoods from COVID-19, poor housing, and employer exploitation.
“We know that inspections can only enforce existing laws, but the existing laws are bad. Migrant farm workers are excluded from basic labour laws like minimum wage or time off, universal healthcare is difficult to access, and there are no real anti-reprisal protections,” says Kit Andres, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change Niagara. “More inspections won’t save lives; giving migrants the power to protect themselves and have equality through permanent immigration status will.”
Just yesterday, migrant farmworker Gabriel Flores who worked at Scotlynn farm in Ontario, called on Minister Mendicino for permanent resident status for all, after being fired for asking for healthcare and speaking to the press. In his letter, he wrote, “We need permanent resident status now, so workers can have the power to protect ourselves. Our health, our well-being, our families, and our lives depend on it.”
In another recent case, migrant workers at Balamore Farms in Nova Scotia, reported that supervisors chose which workers would speak to inspectors and instructed them to say “that they are treating us good and paying us ok and if they dont they are going to go back to Jamaica and they won’t be able to go to another farm either”. See more here: https://twitter.com/MWACCanada/status/1289219693862158338
The federal government has also announced consultations to develop a proposal for mandatory housing requirements. However, without permanent immigration status, migrant workers will not be able to assert their rights or complain when these requirements are not met.
“Migrant workers on farms across the country are falling sick and need immediate and real change. We don’t need more consultations, we know the answers: the federal government could mandate physical distancing at all housing and workplaces which would stop the spread of COVID-19, and ensure permanent resident status now so workers can actually protect themselves,” says Byron Cruz, of Sanctuary Health in Vancouver.