In light of the news coverage of a Brazilian migrant woman’s alleged breakdown in West Kelowna (Farm worker problems being dealt with, says West Kelowna council, The Daily Courier, Aug. 24), follow up stories about the deplorable living conditions there, in addition to a story about farm workers being sent home because they couldn’t endure working with poor air quality, Radical Action with Migrants in Agriculture (RAMA) is writing to express our deep concern for the safety, mental health, and well being of migrant farm workers in the area.
Migrant workers employed on Okanagan farms frequently face a host of issues that contribute to making their work environments distressing and even dangerous.
Beyond the community isolation and language barriers, workers often experience workplace bullying, lack of access to drinking water, sexual harassment by farm bosses, and overcrowded housing conditions.
They work long hours with little or no time off and they are constantly pushed to “work faster.” These conditions deny them basic human rights and don’t meet minimum Canadian workplace, housing, and health standards.
RAMA members are outraged that migrant workers are consistently portrayed in an unfavourable light in our local media, in spite of reports of the terrible working and living conditions they endure.
They are again and again painted as dangerous, subhuman, and lacking in some way in comparison to Canadian citizens.
At the same time, local governments disregard these issues and further exclude migrant farm workers from our community by ignoring all the issues they face.
We want to remind our communities and governments that migrant farm workers, while living and working here in Canada, are entitled to the same rights and protections as every other Canadian resident, and they are here because they are integral to keeping the local agricultural industry thriving.
Migrant farm workers should be treated with the same respect and dignity as other community members.
If you enjoy local fruit, wine, and locally produced food products, you have migrant farm workers to thank for getting those products onto your plates and into your glasses.
Robyn Bunn, Kelowna