Intense fires are ravaging the country. Thousands have been forced out of their homes. Indigenous communities are particularly impacted.
Similar to the floods in BC in 2021, migrant workers, especially those in the agricultural sector, are once again facing exclusion and exploitation.
Migrant farmworkers without income; forced to work during fires
In the Okanagan Valley of BC, over 600 migrant farmworkers have been displaced. Despite their devastating losses, some employers are refusing to provide income support, leaving these workers dependent on migrant-led organizations such as Sanctuary Health and RAMA for assistance.
Worse still – some of the workers in the fire-affected communities were moved to nearby farms. Their new employers are forcing them to work, even as the air is thick with smoke and temperatures are soaring.
No real protections exist for migrant workers during extreme weather events. Where there are some rules, workers are unable to speak up because employers can fire them, evict them, kick them out of the country and bar them from returning.
Fired for speaking out
Jamaican farm workers were recently sent home two months early as retaliation from their Ontario employer after a one-day strike protesting appalling housing conditions. These workers had released footage of overflowing bathrooms and their employer berating them.
And just this week in New Brunswick, 25 migrant fishery workers were coerced into signing “resignation letters” two months before their contract will end after organizing a meeting to address insufficient work and income. Please take two minutes and send a message to support them right now!
Climate change is not just fires and extreme weather events
The crisis caused by climate change extends beyond fires and extreme weather. As weather patterns become unpredictable, many migrant workers in food and other seasonal industries are working fewer hours than usual.
The minimum wage they earn in Canada is worth less because the prices of everything have gone up around the world. This year, migrant organizations are distributing emergency aid and food boxes to migrant workers even more than we did during the pandemic.
Rather than ensuring equal rights and permanent residency for all migrants, the federal government has made it even easier for employers to hire more workers on a precarious basis.
We need justice and status for all
This open season for exploitation is a response from the federal government to the employer push for more precarious workers to fill what they insist is a labour shortage. But we know the real issue is lack of worker rights, not a lack of workers. Even as employers and bosses are pushing for more precarious workers, they are also blaming immigrants for the increase in housing prices.
Over the last few weeks, big business supporting voice in the media have been loudly complaining about too many immigrants causing the housing crunch. Their main argument is that there are too many newcomers, and so Canada needs to build new homes and/or reduce the number of people. But focusing on housing supply, instead of investor profiteering, is just a way for those who are making the big bucks from construction and development to continue to do so.
Help us push back against misinformation blaming immigrants for the housing crisis.
Some amazing news: Organizing and speaking up works!
Migrant farmworker Kerian Burnett won temporary access to healthcare after she joined with No One Is Illegal Halifax. Migrante Canada chairperson Danilo De Leon won a stop to his deportation and will likely get permanent resident status!