TORONTO, Feb. 8, 2012 /CNW/ - Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is urging the Office of the Chief Coroner to undertake a Coroner's Inquest into the deaths of eleven people who died tragically in a vehicle collision in Hampstead, Ontario. Ten migrant workers employed as chicken catchers and the driver of a transport truck died late Monday afternoon in the town of Hampstead, Ontario.
"We would like to take this time to send our sympathies to the families whose lives have been shattered as a result of this accident" says Chris Ramsaroop, organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW). "As we mourn this tragedy it is important that we take immediate steps to prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again" continues Ramsaroop.
A 2010 study funded by Worksafe B.C. found that unsafe vehicles and careless driving continue to put farmworkers at risk and that vans and buses used by Farm Labour Contractors to transport migrant workers between worksites frequently lack sufficient seat belts.
While a Coroner's Inquest does not assign guilt to any of the parties involved, inquests are beneficial in investigating and developing recommendations to prevent accidents like this from occurring again. While there have been several tragedies involving migrant workers, there has never been a Coroner's Inquest in the Province of Ontario examining the death of a migrant worker employed under the temporary foreign workers program.
In 2010, there were over 282,000 migrant workers under Canada's temporary foreign worker program (TFW) with over 60,000 workers employed in Ontario. Migrant workers employed under the 'low skilled' stream of the TFW program are tied to one employer, usually live in housing determined by the employer, pay thousands of dollars to recruiters to work in Canada, they cannot apply for permanent residency and must leave Canada after working for four years.
Being tied to one employer creates barriers for migrant workers when they try to exert rights against workplace abuses. Both the provincial and federal government needs to enact steps to provide protection for migrant workers. This includes: permanent residency for migrant workers; banning placement and recruitment fees; modernizing labour laws, ending unilateral deportations and providing equal access to entitlements.
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