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Virgil, Ontario – June 16, 2013 – For the second year in a row, migrant agriculture workers, members of Toronto's Jane-Finch community, AWA staff, and SAME activists ( Students Against Migrant Exploitation) gathered at the Agriculture Workers Alliance Centre in Virgil, Ontario to celebrate at the Caribbean Workers Welcome Back BBQ.
More than 100 migrant agriculture workers from Jamaica, Barbados and other Caribbean countries participated in the community event featuring good food, rapping, dancing, and a chance to share stories with Caribbean-Canadian members of the Toronto's Jane-Finch community who traveled to Virgil to add to the welcome. It was a return visit, for in June the AWA staff organized a visit to the Jane-Finch community by 40 Caribbean migrant workers employed in the Virgil area.
"The AWA, SAME and UFCW Canada have done great work to build bridges in our community, and to reach out and welcome migrant agriculture workers," says Jane-Finch community organizer Andrea Tabner who traveled to Virgil for the welcome event. "Caribbean migrant farm workers have a long history in Canada, and it is great to have a chance to say hello and thank you."
In the late 1960s, workers from Jamaica and the Caribbean were the first-ever migrant agriculture workers to come to Canada under the Canadian Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program (CSAWP). Despite their decades of commitment — and the tens of millions of dollars the workers have paid into the Employment Insurance (EI) system — the Harper government recently stripped away the right of Caribbean workers and other migrant workers in Canada to access Parental Benefits under the EI system.
"Workers pay into the EI system. They deserved to be compensated under the program like everyone else," says Stan Raper, the coordinator of the AWA centres who was on hand at the Virgil event and helped circulate a post card petition signed by workers and community allies."UFCW Canada and the AWA have kicked off a campaign — Migrant Workers Are Parents Too — for activists and workers to send a message to the Harper government to end the discrimination, and to return EI Parental benefits to workers who sacrifice so much to grow and harvest food for Canadian families."
Add your voice to the UFCW Canada and Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA) national campaign to restore EI equity for migrant workers in Canada.