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Immigrant workers die as Tories continue to cut settlement funding

23 DECEMBER 2010

Immigrant workers die as Tories continue to cut settlement funding
Vigil on the 1-year anniversary of Christmas Eve migrant worker deaths

(Toronto) A candlelight vigil is being held on the one-year anniversary of the tragic deaths of four migrant workers who were killed last Christmas Eve when the scaffolding they were working on collapsed in half. The vigil will take place Friday December 24, 2010 at 2757 Kipling Avenue (the site of the scaffolding accident) at 2 pm and demands that more action be done to protect migrant workers.

"The Tories are cutting settlement funding, jailing Tamil refugee claimants, and letting workers without full status die", says Mohan Mishra, organizer with No One Is Illegal-Toronto and one of the groups organizing the vigil. "We are gathering to mark the memory of those dead and demand that immediate action be taken to ensure full status, workplace protection, health benefits and just workers compensation for all workers, particularly those without full status."

“Our immigration system allows migrant workers to be treated like disposable commodities. Our heath and safety system further perpetuates this reality by refusing to target employers of migrant workers, especially workers without status and workers in farm and domestic work," says Chris Ramsaroop, an organizer with Justice for Migrant Workers, co-organizing the Vigil.

The Expert Advisory Panel on Occupational Health and Safety, struck up after the Christmas Eve deaths of Alexander Bondorev, Aleksey Blumberg, Fayzullo Fazilov and Vladimir Korostin concluded that "Worker vulnerability arises for various reasons: not knowing one’s rights under the OHSA, such as the right to refuse unsafe work; having no work experience or training that is job- or hazard-specific; and being unable to exercise rights or raise health and safety concerns for fear of losing one’s job, or in some cases, being deported."

Many migrant workers choose not to speak out about health and safety concerns and workplace accidents for fear of deportation and future disbarment by Immigration. "The Ontario Ministry of Labor and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board have failed to support workers without full status and as a result deplorable conditions of unsafe work exist and workplace accidents occur daily with impunity," says Jessica Ponting, Community Legal Worker at the Industrial Accidental Victims Group of Ontario.

Speaking at the vigil in January 2010, Oksana Afanasenko, the widow of Aleksey Blumberg, said "A lot of young men working on construction now are without documents and when something like this happens, they're afraid to say the truth because they're afraid that immigration will deport them back to their country".

Serious injuries to migrant workers are common and sometimes result in death. In late September 2010, two Jamaican farmworkers died after inhaling toxic fumes at an apple orchard near Owen Sound. A rally was held outside the Ministry of Labour to demand justice for Paul Roach and Ralston White as well as other migrant workers who have died as a result of their labour in Canada.

The vigil is being organized by Justice for Migrant Workers, No One Is Illegal-Toronto, and the Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario.

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For more information, contact Mohan Mishra at 416.270.8947, Jessica Ponting at 647.401.9611 or Chris Ramsaroop at 647.834.4932.