Canada: Jamaican Workers Decry Alleged Exploitation
In a letter sent to Jamaica’s Ministry of Labor earlier this month, workers affiliated with the rights group Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) called for more support in the face of conditions they allege to be akin to “systematic slavery” in Canadian farms.
- In a letter sent to Jamaica’s Ministry of Labor earlier this month, workers affiliated with the rights group Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) called for more support in the face of conditions they allege to be akin to “systematic slavery” in Canadian farms.
- Under an initiative called the Season Worker Agricultural Program (SAWP), migrants from Mexico and 11 Caribbean nations can travel to Canada for up to eight months. Some of these migrants claim they’ve been verbally abused, physically intimidated, and exposed to pesticides.
- SAWP workers also say they work for “minimum wage and can’t survive the four months back home.” MWAC says three documented migrant deaths have occurred so far this month, with 12 occurring this year.
- MWAC says that workers are tied to their employers and risk deportation if they raise concerns, the group has called on the govt. to provide migrant and undocumented workers with a feasible path to permanent residency, which would grant them more rights.
- The ministry of labor set aside $40.5M Canadian in 2021 to boost support for the program, and Parliament unanimously passed the M-44 motion in May calling on the govt. to produce “a comprehensive plan…to expand pathways to permanent residency” within 120 days.
- Following the letter, the Jamaican Ministry of Labor expressed “deep sadness” and traveled to four farms to assess the situation and visit workers last week. In a press release, it committed to an increased presence of liaison officers.
Sources: Al Jazeera, CBC, Lealty, and Jamaica Observer.
- Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by CTV. The Canadian govt. has sat idle watching this human rights disaster unfold. Nobody should be abused and forced into unsafe living and working conditions. With staggering numbers of injuries and deaths, coupled with the lack of rights given to them, it’s time the govt. offers these workers permanent resident status.
- Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by More Than A Migrant Worker. Any reports of abuse on certain Canadian farms should be investigated and brought to an end, but the cases are far and few between. Canada’s migrant worker programs offer the same rights and privileges to foreign workers as are given to citizens, and most employers follow the law and treat their employees with dignity — those who don’t should be shut down and prosecuted.
- Narrative C, as provided by Jamaica Observer. While Canada must do more, this issue isn’t Canada’s alone: Jamaica’s Ministry of Labor — which has liaised with this program — is also responsible for the well-being of the workers, whose calls for action they’ve so far ignored. Their recent trip to Canada’s farms did nothing to address the concerns brought forward in the letter, but merely offered empty words of encouragement.