Halifax/ Kjipuktuk – Today, migrant support organization No one is illegal – Halifax/Kjipuktuk (NOII-Hfx) released the results of an informal poll asking migrant workers in Nova Scotia about the key changes that they would like to see at the provincial level. The results of the poll are being released in the lead up to the upcoming provincial election on August 17th.
Over 100 migrant workers responded to the informal poll. The majority were migrant farm workers in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) from Jamaica and Mexico. Their demands include increasing the minimum wage to at least $15/hour, ten paid sick days, holiday pay and access to public healthcare for all. They also called for a provincial immigration program accessible to migrant farmworkers, as well as full and permanent immigration status for all migrants across Canada.
“It would be good for them to increase the minimum wage, since the pay is cheap here compared to Ontario and British Columbia,” said one Mexican farm worker in the SAWP program. He added: “It would be great to have better access to the immigration system knowing that it’s because of workers that there is production and money entering Canada. Without our labour, the amount of money wouldn’t be the same.”
“We don’t have access to the healthcare system, yet we pay taxes the same as any other resident or Canadian citizen, without receiving the same benefits. Having an immigration system that is more accessible, this would provide us with access to public healthcare. In my case, I’ve been here for 2 years, without being able to access the public health system, waiting to be able to make an immigration application,” says one Mexican worker in the seafood processing sector.
“I have been traveling on the program for about 15 years, so Canada is basically my second home. I am a family man and to leave my wife and kids every year is very hard but I know it’s something I have to do,” said one Jamaican migrant farmworker in the SAWP program who would like to apply for permanent residence in Canada. He added: “I work very very hard everyday when I am here and all I want is better treatment, more respect, more benefits and for the government to offer help to those who wish to migrate here because Canada is a family country and I strongly believe in my family and I want them here with me.”
“Why is it that we don’t have a sick leave paid? If we don’t go to the doctor, for the doctor to write us some record to show that we are sick and it has to pass a certain number of days to get something. And, even if we present that to our boss, they are forcing us to work and we don’t get nothing. These are issues that need to be addressed. Where I work, I know of cases where people have fallen sick and even me, myself. When I took my second shot of the vaccine, I was sick, I couldn’t go to work for 1.5 days. I didn’t even get a pay. I didn’t even get a cent and it wasn’t my fault. I lost out on my wages with no compensation,” said one woman migrant worker from Jamaica.
“While migrant workers can’t vote, they are making their voices heard about what needs to change here in Nova Scotia. They are important members of our community. Many come here year after year, for the majority of the year. Yet, they are excluded in so many ways. For example, lack of access to permanent residence excludes them from essential services like access to healthcare, the ability to exercise labour rights and the possibility to be with their families,” said Stacey Gomez of NOII-Hfx’s Migrant Workers Program. She added: “Migrant workers are echoing calls for an increase to the minimum wage, paid sick days and so on. A step forward for migrant worker rights is a step forward for labour rights in Nova Scotia more broadly.”
Each year, approximately 2,000 migrant workers arrive in Nova Scotia to plant, harvest, and process agricultural crops and seafood products through Temporary Foreign Worker Programs (TFWPs) such as the SAWP program. Approximately 50,000 to 60,000 migrant workers come to Canada to work in agricultural, food and fish processing each year.
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No one is illegal – Halifax/Kjipuktuk, Migrant Workers Program
No one is illegal-Halifax/Kjipuktuk’s (NOII-Hfx) Migrant Workers Program is engaged in outreach, accompaniment, and education to migrant workers throughout Nova Scotia, as well as advocacy on migrant worker rights. So far this year, the Migrant Workers Program has provided support to over 1,200 migrant workers throughout Nova Scotia. NOII-Hfx is a member of the Migrant Worker Rights Working Group, as well as the Migrant Rights Network.