On July 23, 2013, Adrian Monrose, a migrant farm worker from St. Lucia, won a landmark case at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). It is the first time a migrant farm worker has ever won a case at the Tribunal.
Being dismissed in 2009 after complaining of racial harassment at his Ontario workplace, Double Diamond greenhouse, he eventually returned to Canada to pursue his complaint through the HRTO. He was aided by migrant justice organization Justice for Migrant Workers and represented by human rights lawyer Shane Martinez.
While the case occurred in Ontario, it has resonance throughout the country. Mr. Monrose came to Canada through the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), a guest worker program that attempts to respond to the labour shortage in the Canadian agricultural sector by importing labour.
The SAWP operates in all provinces, except for Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a bilateral treaty program that allows foreign agriculture labourers from signatory countries to work up to eight months a year at Canadian agriculture operations.
A number of organizations, including Justice for Migrant Workers and the Union of Food and Commercial Workers, have expressed major concerns about how the program grants too little protection for the workers and too much opportunity for employers to abuse. In this interview, human rights lawyer Shane Martinez offers details and insight on Mr. Monrose's case as an example of this kind of abuse, problems with the SAWP in general, and recommendations for change.
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