By Gerald V. Paul
The “Harvesting Freedom”caravan, organized by activists from Justicia for migrant workers, which left Leamington on September 4, arrived in Ottawa on the weekend with its petition calling on the federal government to grant migrant farm workers permanent resident status.
The activists were planning to present the petition to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Immigration John McCallum on Monday. But both the prime minister and the immigration minister were reported to be unavailable.
However, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Mary Ann Mihychuk met with a delegation from” Harvesting Freedom” in the Parliament building on Monday and received the petition.
Commenting on the meeting with Minister Mihychuk, St. Lucia-born farm worker Gabriel Allahdua, who was a member of the delegation, said he was “not so hopeful” about the outcome.
While in Ottawa, the activists held a press conference at which they discussed the plight of the migrant workers and marched from Parliament Hill to the office of the Immigration minister. They held a protest demonstration outside his office..
Trinidad-born Chris Ramsaroop, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers, told The Caribbean Camera on Tuesday, that although the “Harvesting Freedom” caravan has ended its 1,500 kilometre journey to Ottawa, there is still a lot more work to be done.
“The drive to collect more names online in support of our petition continues and so does the struggle for the rights of farm workers ,” he said.
Ramsaroop also said that his organization recently presented a cheque for $22, 000 to the farm workers who lost their belongings when their living quarters in Brandford, Ontario went up in flames last summer.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme.
Tens of thousands of workers from the Caribbean and Mexico are recruited annually to work for several months on farms in Canada through the Program. The workers are required to return home at the end of the contracted work periods.