A 36-year old migrant worker identified as Luis Gabriel Flores has disclosed to the press the unsafe working environment in the Ontario farm. Flores, who has tested positive of COVID-19, is from Mexico City, and he initially started traveling to Canada for seasonal work in 2014 and has worked four seasons in the country.
Following his revelation to the press, Flores was fired and threatened to be deported along with his three friends who were suspected of speaking to the press. These allegations, which Scott Biddle, President, and CEO of Scotland Group deny, are described in an 8-page legal complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, and in a letter, Flores delivered this week to the office of Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino in downtown Toronto.
In his letter, Flores points out the confined, unhygienic housing conditions. He states that it was not possible to keep distant because of the size of the rooms. Additionally, he has stated that they were not provided with protective gear. As a result, some fell sick, but the employers ignored them until they were in critical condition. As part of his complaint, Flores is seeking $28,000 in damages for direct and future earning losses, as well as $10,000 for emotional pain and suffering he endured.
Syed Hussan, Executive Director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), said in a press conference they were calling on the federal government of Canada to give full and permanent immigration status for all the migrant workers. Besides, he said the migrant workers wanted to protect their health, their safety, but it’s the federal immigration rules that made it impossible for them to do so. Hussan also said three migrant workers had succumbed to the virus in Canada so far, and 1,100 were sick.
According to MWAC, seasonal migrant workers have an insecure status within the state. They cannot even question their bosses who exploit them. Flores was in Canada on a restricted work permit, which meant his ability to remain in Canada was tied completely to his employer. The Executive Director said about 1.6 million people in Canada did not have permanent immigration status, and can’t access basic health care, basic work, and they are fired when they speak up.