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Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is a volunteer run political non-profit collective comprised of activists from diverse walks of life (including labour activists, educators, researchers, students and youth of colour) based in Toronto, Ontario, and now in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We are engaged in this work alongside our personal commitments and numerous social justice struggles.
J4MW strives to promote the rights of migrant farmworkers (participating in the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program and the Low Skilled Workers Program) and farmworkers without status. Promoting workers rights entails fighting for spaces where workers themselves can articulate their concerns without losing their work or being repatriated. We start with workers’ knowledge and concerns and collectively devise strategies to make necessary changes. We see ourselves as allies and strive for a movement that is led and directed by workers themselves.
Our work is and has to be transnational in scope. It considers the context of sending countries, Canada’s complicity in benefitting and creating poverty in the Global South, and most importantly we consider families left behind, primarily children and women who are very much a part of migration but who are always forgotten in the equation of migrant farm labour.
J4MW collective is is motivated by experiences shared and lessons learned from migrant farm workers over the course of more than nine years of community outreach in rural Ontario. As allies, activists and friends we believe migrant workers deserve work with dignity and respect!
Our Main Demands
Right to Employment Insurance: In 2001 it was estimated that migrant farm workers put into the EI fund over $11 million a year yet they are denied to apply for returns from this program. The federal government must create a regime whereby migrant farm workers can claim employment insurance.
Right to regularization: Workers must have the right to apply for citizenship in Canada. Since 1966 workers have been simply seen as a labour force that is brought and then returned after their contract is over. Many workers win the right to apply for Canadian citizenship. The government must listen to their needs and implement a process whereby workers can apply for status in Canada.
The Right to be treated with respect and dignity: Workers consider themselves to be an invisible workforce that have little clout when dealing with either employers or governmental officials. It is essential that migrant farm workers are covered by legislative protection that guarantees minimum labour standards. This must includes full coverage under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, Fair and decent housing, the right to form unions and the right to social and economic mobility in Canada.
Right to Appeal: Workers have complained that they work in virtual bondage. Several workers have documented cases where their colleagues have faced reprisal for standing up to demand better work and living conditions. Reprisals take the form of premature repatriations where workers are sent home usually at their own expense. An appeal process must be implemented to guarantee that migrant farm workers have the right to a fair and impartial process where they can tell their side of their story.
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