Saturday, December 9, 2017

NDP leader irks farm worker advocates

 Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has run into a buzzsaw of criticism from farm worker sympathizers advocating for migrant workers’ rights.

Justice for Migrant Workers, a Toronto non-profit that promotes rights of farm workers participating in the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, criticized Singh for social media promotion of his visit to Windsor-area greenhouses, which they say are part of an industry that systematically exploits racialized migrants for profit.

The organization is pressing the NDP to include migrant worker protection in the party’s platform for the upcoming provincial election next year.

“This industry has basically been built on the blood sweat and sacrifices of low wage, racialized, precarious workers,” said Chris Ramsaroop, a Justice for Migrant Workers advocate.

“It’s concerning that Jagmeet was there to . . . support an industry that’s based on exploitation.”

Singh, who does not have a seat in the House of Commons, has said he is using his time outside it to travel the country and visit communities to build momentum for the party’s brand and ideas.
Ramsaroop said that when migrant workers come to Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, they’re uniquely susceptible to exploitation because of the conditions placed on them.
“By tying someone to a particular employer, what happens is that it silences workers and ensures that there’s a captive labour force,” Ramsaroop said. 
Nor do migrant workers here, under that program, have the option to apply for permanent residency.

Singh has been outspoken on these issues, and included access to legal aid for migrant workers in his leadership platform.

In an e-mail statement to the Toronto Star, Singh said he spoke with migrant workers during his weekend greenhouse visit, and “highlighted the need to increase pathways to citizenship.”

It looks to me like Justice for Farm Workers just wants to raise the profile of the issue and that it made Singh an unfair victim.