Temporary foreign workers and supporters denounce poor treatment on Quebec farms

A bicycle convoy of protesters denouncing abuses of temporary migrant worker rights gathered on Saturday at a Latin American cultural festival in St-Rémi, in Quebec's Montérégie region.

Noé Arteaga led protest to St-Rémi in Quebec's breadbasket, where many TFWs work in summer months

Small group of protesters try to hold demonstration outside of Latin American culture festival. 1:44

A bicycle convoy of protesters denouncing abuses of temporary migrant worker rights gathered on Saturday at a Latin American cultural festival in St-Rémi, in Quebec's Montérégie region.

Led by Noé Arteaga, a Guatemalan temporary migrant worker who won a lawsuit against now-bankrupt Quebec tomato producer Savoura, the group stopped by this weekend's Fiesta de Cultures. The event was in part sponsored by the Mexican and Guatemalan consulates.

Security guards and provincial police at the festival denied the protesters entry, telling them they could only protest outside. That led to a scuffle that saw protesters get dragged away from the festival site.

Supporters and members of the Justice for Noé Committee attended the protest to demand better treatment for temporary foreign workers — usually people from Latin and South American countries who are hired by Canadian companies to harvest crops and work in slaughterhouses.

Conditions abroad same as at home: Worker

Arteaga describes the treatment of temporary foreign workers as inhumane. 

"We don't buy Mexican products because it's slavery," he said. "But they don't take into consideration that there are the same conditions, the same problems for temporary workers here [in Quebec]."

Arteaga has been fighting for migrant workers rights in Quebec for years after he says he was fired for trying to help a worker who had fallen ill.

Last year, the labour relations board finally made a ruling on the case, stating that the company should not have fired Santos.

He's now seeking compensation: $50,000 total, which represents $10,000 a year for each year since his termination.

However, after Savoura filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, Arteaga said he was "cheated out of compensation."

On Saturday, the protesters were finally permitted to protest inside the festival grounds — and they did so peacefully, hoping the incident didn't overshadow their message.

Protester Carlos Azteca said the scuffle was uncalled for. 

"It's a pity because this is against our right to free expression," he said.

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