Open letter says Jamaican migrant farm workers face “systemic slavery” in Canada

Jamaican migrant farm workers in Niagara have written an open letter to Jamaica’s Ministry of Labour, calling for better living conditions as they face what they call “systemic slavery” in Canada.

The open letter described poor working and living conditions including crowded living spaces with cameras in them, to being punished for not working quick enough.

“Most migrant farm workers are living in employer controlled housing, which is basically stables or warehouses where people are living in bunk beds, climbing on top of each other to sleep, even in COVID,” said Syed Hussan from Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “[The workers] don’t have privacy, have community, have friends visit, have their families live with them. This housing is about warehousing people and in this way humans are being indignified and turned into machines, rather than being treated like complete people.”

The letter reads in part: “As it currently stands, the Seasonal Agriculture Workers Program is systemic slavery.”

The Migrant Workers Alliance says migrant farm workers should be granted permanent residency as they are currently unable to properly advocate for their rights out of fear of being deported or fired.

The letter was sent out just a week before a migrant worker died at a farm in Norfolk County. The Ministry of Labour is investigating that incident.