/EIN News/ — WINDSOR, Ontario, June 23, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — On Sunday, June 25, 2023, Justicia/Justice for Migrant Workers (“J4MW”), current and former migrant workers, and community members, will be gathering at the office of MP Irek Kusmiercyzk in Windsor, Ontario to deliver the organization’s report card on the Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers (“VOWP”).
The rally will outline the group’s concerns with the permit, provide an analysis of the crisis facing migrant workers, address concerns regarding Freedom of Information requests and share feedback from applicants of the permit. J4MW and allies will advocate for a model that allows migrant workers the freedom to move and stay.
The rally will take place from 5-6pm outside MP Kusmiercyzk’s office, which is located at 9733 Tecumseh Rd E Unit #2, in Windsor, Ontario N8R 1A5.
Taneeta Doma, a staff lawyer with the Migrant Farmworker Clinic and member of J4MW, says, “It’s time to level the playing field. Migrant farmworkers put food on our table and prop up a multibillion dollar industry that is rife with abuse. It is imperative that we create a new vision of migrant justice that does not compel migrants to face a choice between precariousness and indentured servitude.”
J4MW is demanding that migrant workers have permanent status upon arrival, an end to closed permits, an end to unilateral repatriations and disbarments from temporary foreign worker programs, and permanent residence to all migrant workers and their family who have been living and working on Canadian farms for decades.
Background on the Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers
For decades, migrant workers and their advocates have been pointing out the unfree labour and exploitation in the closed, employer-tied system. In response to J4MW’s Harvesting Freedom campaign and caravan, the Parliamentary HUMA committee recommended the VOWP as a way to “improve the well-being of migrant workers in Canada” and to “[incentivize employers] to not mistreat or abuse migrant workers.”
Four years have passed since the June 2019 implementation of the VOWP, and migrant farm workers remain vulnerable to exploitation and oppressive working and living conditions. From the onset, the VOWP application process was uncertain and inconsistent. The onus was on the applicants to provide sufficient evidence of abuse, even though the government is well aware of the difficulties racialized, invisibilized, and precarious workers face in meeting evidentiary burdens. J4MW states that the VOWP was a fig leaf that disregarded the structurally imposed vulnerabilities of closed work permits and the farm program.
Crucially, even when workers are successful in their VOWPs despite all the barriers to accessing justice, not only are they time-limited to a single year, they are non-renewable. To remain in Canada after its expiration, workers are forced to rely on recruiters to find another employer who has obtained an LMIA and can sponsor an employer-specific work permit, placing them back in the very same situation where they could face retraumatization and abuse. J4MW believes that this was implemented strategically to maintain the power imbalance that favours employers and encourages worker compliance.
The rally will illuminate workers’ concerns and call for permanent status on arrival for all migrants, as well as ensuring workers have the freedom to move and stay. J4MW asserts that the federal government deserves an F in all the hallmarks that define a just regulation:
Access including evidentiary burden- F
Combating systemic racism – F
Addressing power imbalances – F
Structural change to combat exploitation – F
Access to justice – F
Access to permanent residence – F
Incentivizing employers to not mistreat workers – F
Provincial support for injured and sick migrant workers – F
Ensuring dignity, respect, equity, safety and fairness – F
JUSTICE – F
Chris Ramsaroop (Justicia for Migrant Workers) Tel 647-834-4932 / Email: [email protected]
Taneeta Doma (Justicia for Migrant Workers & Migrant Farmworker Clinic) Tel 519-903-7376 / Email: [email protected]