TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - March 24, 2014) - Justicia for Migrant Workers strongly supports the right to health care for injured migrant workers Denville Clarke and Kenroy Williams. Members of the community will be showing their support by attending upcoming court proceedings wherein the province of Ontario will try to eliminate the legal right to health care of these injured migrants.
On August 9, 2012 Clarke and Williams were among nine Jamaican migrant workers who were driving to work when their employer's van swerved to avoid an oncoming car. The van rolled several times killing one passenger and severely injuring several others. Their employer attempted to return both Williams and Clarke to Jamaica after the accident despite their serious medical conditions and before they could receive adequate health care. Family members, IAVGO Community Legal Clinic and organizers with Justicia for Migrant Workers intervened to help the workers remain in Ontario for their desperately needed medical treatment.
Clarke and Williams requested an extension of their OHIP coverage on December 4, 2012. Although they were initially denied, the Health Services Appeal and Review Board and a subsequent reconsideration panel found that the pair maintained their right to health care in Ontario. The Board ruled that extraordinary circumstances such as medical emergencies could prevent Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) participants from returning to their country of origin at the end of their work permit; and that there is nothing in the relevant Regulations to support a finding that the Appellants do not continue to be residents of Ontario under the Health Insurance Act.
"The Ontario government claims to be 'inclusive' and 'fair', yet there is nothing inclusive or fair about this appeal," says Chris Ramsaroop, from Justicia for Migrant Workers. "The Province's litigation is scapegoating migrants as drains on the Province's resources, when in reality migrant workers contribute so much to society and get so little in return. The Province should be condemned for their xenophobic and inhumane attitude. We will continue to stand with migrant workers until their right to health care is reaffirmed."
The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) has been in operation since 1966. Countries that participate in the SAWP include Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Mexico, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. Migrant workers employed under this program are tied to an employer, do not have equal access to social entitlements, are denied labour and social mobility and do not have the ability to apply for permanent residency to Canada. The SAWP is one of several migration programs that comprise the Temporary Foreign Workers program which employs over 400,000 migrants under its numerous schemes.
Justicia for Migrant Workers is a volunteer, political non-profit collective comprised of activists from communities across Canada. We work with migrant workers, labour and community allies to advocate for strengthening labour and social protections for all workers irrespective of immigration status.