Migrant workers need permanent residency status, labour advocates say
Justice for Migrant Workers launches Ontario-wide tour
Labour activists are calling on the federal government to grant permanent residency status to all migrant workers as soon as they land in Canada.
Advocacy group Justice For Migrant Workers began its latest public campaign in Windsor, Ont., Monday.
Organizers with the group marched in the annual Labour Day parade and spoke at a rally as they launched a month-long tour of Ontario. That tour culminates in Ottawa in October.
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Gabriel Allahdua addressed the crowds gathered in Windsor. He spent four seasons moving back and forth between Canada and St. Lucia as a migrant worker. Now he works with Justice for Migrant Workers.
"Migrant farm workers work under difficult conditions," Allahdua said. "We are precarious, we are vulnerable, we've been exploited. We face a lot of problems. We work in dangerous jobs with little to no protections, when we get injured we are sent home and we have no right to apply for status."
Thousands of migrant workers in Canada
About 30,000 farm workers come to Canada annually, through the Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program.
That number has steadily increased over the last decade. Most come from Mexico and Jamaica, but also from several Caribbean countries.
The program is intended to allow Canadian farmers to hire workers on temporary visas during the planting and harvesting seasons when they are unable to fund local workers to fulfil their labour demands.
Allahdua described working conditions that he said would be considered unsuitable for Canadian workers.
He says many temporary migrant workers are afraid of raising any concerns because of fears they will be sent home. Permanent residency will be the only way to fix that, he said.
"[Migrant work] is an opportunity to get employment, it's an opportunity to support your family, but the conditions are really difficult and you have to be strong-willed to survive it," Allahdua said. "Status upon arrival is [the] only demand we have. It's the only remedy that will bring about equality and fairness to these workers."