Human Rights and Temporary Foreign Workers: Tribunal Reviewing Death of Foreigner
By Sharaf Sultan
The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal is in the midst of hearing a case involving a Jamaican citizen who died while working in Canada as a temporary agricultural worker.
The worker died in August 2002 after a farm skid fell on him. At the time of his death, he was working for a tobacco farm just outside of Brantford, Ontario.
Although local police investigated the circumstances surrounding the worker’s death, the family of the deceased worker believes that there remain many unanswered questions. The family accordingly requested that a coroner’s inquest into his death be conducted. This request was refused.
The family claims that the refusal to conduct an inquest violates the Ontario Human Rights Code because it disproportionately discriminates against seasonal agricultural workers, a large number of whom are foreigners. The family specifically argues that a coroner’s inquest should be mandatory in deaths involving seasonsal agricultural workers. Currently coroner inquests are only mandatory in cases involving deaths in construction, mining, or quarry work.
The Toronto-based non-profit group Justice for Migrant Workers is representing the deceased worker’s family. They believe temporary foreign workers are not accorded the same protection as Canadians and permanent residents when it comes to employment standards and health and safety protection. They also claim that temporary foreign worker live in Canada in a precarious state with significantly less security than local workers.
According to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada 14 agricultural workers died at work between 1996 and 2002.
We will provide updates to this case as the hearing continues and more information becomes available.
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