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Foreign Farmworkers in Canada Fear Deportation if They Complain

Ken Forth, the president of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services, an organization in Ontario that assists with requests and transport of workers in the program, said that employers faced rigorous standards and that workers could receive quality medical care in Ontario and qualify for a Canadian pension.

He disputed claims that workers had been improperly sent home, saying that foreign governments in the program must approve repatriations.

But Michael Campbell, 54, who was a temporary farmworker in Ontario for nine seasons, had a very different experience. He was sent home in 2008 when he hurt his back picking peaches.

A father of four, Mr. Campbell said he was left permanently disabled, and filed a claim with the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, the provincial agency responsible for providing workers’ compensation. In 2011, the board ruled that he was not entitled to further compensation, claiming he could make up the loss of earnings by working as a cashier in Ontario — even though he was ineligible for a Canadian work visa.

“It’s farcical,” said Maryth Yachnin, a lawyer at the Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario, a legal Clinic in Toronto, which is representing Mr. Campbell in the case.

Mr. Campbell has appealed the ruling and was asked to testify before a board tribunal in Ontario in June. “I want justice,” he said, speaking by phone from his home in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica.

But in May, Canada’s immigration ministry rejected the application for the visa he would need to come to testify, over concerns he would stay in the country illegally, according to an emailed statement from the ministry.

Ms. Yachnin said immigration officials took issue with Mr. Campbell’s lack of income, despite the clinic’s explanation that overstaying the visa would jeopardize the very compensation case he has tried so hard to win.

Taken together, she said, the government’s actions reflect a deep disregard for the rights of temporary foreign workers.

“They just don’t see these people as people,” she said.

Source: NYT > World

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