British Columbia

Missing agricultural workers in Vernon treated like criminals, group claims

An advocacy group for migrant workers says a number of temporary workers that have been missing for over a month are being treated like potential criminals.

Okanagan-based advocacy group says migrant workers are highly vulnerable

RAMA, an Okanagan-based advocacy group, says media coverage of missing migrant workers has been sensational and racist. (CBC)

An advocacy group for migrant workers says a number of temporary workers that have been missing for over a month are being treated like potential criminals.

RCMP in Vernon are still searching for four Mexican workers who were employed on a farm in Vernon under a seasonal agricultural program.

Police say they are trying to find out if the workers are safe. RCMP spokesman Gord Molendyk says they left the farm in late June to cash some cheques and haven't been heard from since.

"They left a lot of their personal items behind, so to us they are missing," said Molendyk.

RCMP have put out a missing persons bulletin and alerted Canadian and American border officials.

Concerns raised

But Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (RAMA),  an Okanagan group that advocates for foreign workers, says it's concerned about how the case is being handled. 

"This call comes about a month after the men went missing," said Amy Cohen, a spokeswoman for RAMA.

"So we're concerned about why they waited so long and the fact they framed them as potential criminals or security threats."

RAMA considers the media coverage of the missing men story to be sensational and racist. It says temporary workers are allowed to travel within Canada and do not require permission from their employer.

The group says stories about the missing workers have implied a criminal motivation to their absence from work instead of investigating other potential causes.

"It is a call to the community to find fugitives, not missing people," said RAMA in a written release.

RAMA says temporary workers are a highly vulnerable group of people who "often endure sub-standard on-farm housing, workplace harassment, and unsafe working conditions."

RCMP say they are just trying to determine the whereabouts of four missing men.

With files from Bob Keating


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