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STOP THE KILLING OF MIGRANT WORKERS, END EXPLOITATIVE TEMPORARY WORK PROGRAMS

Toronto — No One Is Illegal-Toronto, a grassroots migrant justice organization, is shocked and enraged at the most recent deaths of two migrant workers from Jamaica, Ralston White and Paul Roach, on September 10 while working at Filsinger's Organic Foods apple orchard and processing facility near Owen Sound, Ontario. Deaths and injuries to migrant workers are a hidden face of Canada's exclusionary immigration system, bursting in to light only when immense tragedies take place.

Four construction workers with precarious immigration status, Alexander Bondorev, Aleksey Blumberg, Fayzullo Fazilov and Vladimir Korostin, fell to their deaths on Christmas Eve 2009 in one of the worst workplace disasters to shake Toronto. The swing stage scaffolding they were working on broke into two pieces, plummeting the four workers over 13 stories to the concrete below at 2757 Kipling Avenue. A fifth man was in critical condition and will need medical attention for the rest of his life. A vigil was organized by No One Is Illegal-Toronto and Justice for Migrant Workers on January 7, 2010 (http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/391)

The deaths of September 10 are presently under an Ontario Provincial Police and Ministry of Labor investigation. Such investigations do little to attack the root cause of the problem - the exclusionary, racist immigration agenda of Canada that forces migrants into temporary jobs with minimal protection or access to justice and dignity.

Bauxite mining in Jamaica has caused immense deforestation and weakened the economy. One of the largest corporate exploiters of mining in Jamaica is Alcan Canada whose mining rights supersede all Jamaican law. Structural adjustment programs endorsed by Canada brought the Jamaican economy to its knees, at the same time as Canada was expanding the Seasonal Agricultural Work Program to bring in Jamaican migrants as farmworkers in the late 70s, and 80s.

In short, Canada profits from the impoverishment of poor and people of colour communities the world over, forcing many to make the difficult decision to come to Canada. Those who are able to arrive do so on temporary work programs that restrict their ability to create long lasting relationships in Canada. Temporary migrant workers struggle in difficult and dangerous jobs, often injured. Many are deported when they are deemed unfit to work and some die upon their return.

The deaths of Ralston and Paul are the tip of an iceberg calling to account the hundreds of others that have been injured and killed as a result of Canadian immigration policy. Mere investigations that will simply blame a few corporations and not fundamentally overhaul the immigration system are simply not sufficient.

On August 13, 30 civil charges were laid against Metron Construction Corporation, 16 against a Director in the company and 8 against a supervisor for the deaths of Alexander, Aleksey, Fayzullo and Vladimir. Platform supplier Swing ‘N’ Scaff also faces four charges, and another three were laid against a director in the company. The cause of death - lack of resources due to immigration status - is being quickly brushed under the carpet.

Since becoming the minority Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has continued the Liberal policy of limiting access to full citizenship rights for migrants. Today, more people enter Canada as temporary workers then those with access to permanent residency. Today, more than 60% of refugee claimants are denied access to citizenship rights on arbitrary grounds. Many of these people must make the difficult decision to continue to live in Canada without full status, often unable to secure safe employment, have access to full education, health care, housing or emergency services. Those that do so face the daily of fear of detention and deportation, injuries and in some cases death.

Nothing short of full status for all people can end such tragedies from taking place.