Jamaica sends team to investigate farm workers in Canada

Ministry also 'redoubling efforts' to ensure workers have confidentiality in reporting issues

Jamaica sends team to investigate farm workers in Canada

A Jamaican official has appointed a fact-finding team to investigate claims made by farm workers in Canada that they are being subjected to mistreatment by their employers.

Karl Samuda, Jamaica’s minister of labour and social security, appointed the six-member tripartite group to look into the conditions of workers under the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers (Farm Work) Program.

The team “is expected to travel to Canada to observe operations and speak with workers on the farms, and provide a report to the minister,” the Jamaican ministry said in a press release.

A couple of weeks ago, Syed Hussan, executive director at Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, called for a revamp of the system that governs migrant worker’s employment in Canada.

“As it currently stands, the Seasonal Agriculture Workers Program is systemic slavery,” he said, adding that most migrant farm workers are living in employer-controlled housing “which is basically stables or warehouses where people are living in bunk beds, climbing on top of each other to sleep, even in COVID.”

Earlier in August, Samuda visited various farms and said he “observed very good relations” between workers and their employers, according to an Al Jazeera report.

But the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change said they felt betrayed by Samuda’s statement.

“Since our letter came out and got media attention, our bosses have been telling us to keep quiet or else they will shut down the farm and we will all lose our jobs. To hear our own Minister of Labour glorify these bully bosses, these devils, is a slap in the face of every farmworker and our families.”

In his Sept. 1 release, Jamuda said that although the farm program has improved significantly over the decades, “there is room for continuous improvement.”

He also said the ministry’s liaison service “has been tasked with redoubling its efforts at ensuring that workers have easy access to existing mechanisms to facilitate confidentiality in reporting issues of poor working conditions and other concerns.”

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, some 25 per cent of the total death count because of COVID-19 were attributed to immigrants, according to a previous report. Also, migrant farm workers who come to Ontario from other countries are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and other diseases. This is due to their communal living and working conditions.

In July 2021, the federal government outlined 14 regulatory amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Temporary Foreign Workers).


Latest stories