Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday June 12, 2020
Migrant workers in Canada face unsafe working, living conditions: report
Migrant workers in Canada are facing unsafe living and working conditions amid a series of COVID-19 outbreaks on Ontario farms, according to an advocacy group.
Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) on Monday released a report summarizing complaints made to its tip line between March 15 and May 15 by workers from Mexico and the Caribbean about racism, threats, surveillance, poor access to food, and dirty cramped bunkhouses, with 40 people in a dorm reportedly sharing one shower in one case.
“We are in the midst of a human rights catastrophe,” MWAC executive director Syed Hussan said on Monday.
The report comes after a series of recent outbreaks on Ontario farms that have seen hundreds of migrant workers reportedly test positive for COVID-19. Two migrant workers, identified as Bonifacio Eugenio Romero and Rogelio Muñoz Santos, both from Mexico, have died from the virus. At least two other migrant workers are in intensive care, MWAC said.
“The employer was not interested in our well-being, only in the work we do for him,” a farm worker from Mexico, identified as Edgar, said through a translator at an MWAC video news conference on Tuesday.
Employment and Workforce Development Minister Carla Qualtrough’s office on Monday said in a statement that there is “more to do” to protect migrant workers in Canada.
“The reported cases of inappropriate behaviours and unsafe working conditions are completely unacceptable,” the statement said, noting the government has already pledged $50 million to farmers to help with the costs of housing and paying workers for 30 hours a week during the mandatory two-week quarantine upon their arrival in the country.
But MWAC said it has received complaints from workers who reported not receiving their full quarantine pay. Others reported not receiving enough food during that two-week period.
“Sixteen workers reported receiving only one loaf of bread and a carton of eggs to feed them all for two days,” MWAC said. “One group of nine workers called us about being placed in a house where dogs had been living, that smelled of dog urine and had not been cleaned prior to the workers’ arrival. (Financial Post)