“Injured farm worker struggles to survive after support cut off” / Sara Mojtehedzadeh (Toronto Star, Oct 7, 2016)
Former migrant farmer Anthony Brown, seriously injured in a workplace accident while working on a Niagara-area fruit-picking operation, is in a no-win situation. Permanently disabled, functionally illiterate and now living on a farm in Jamaica (he no longer has the legal right to be in Ontario), his ongoing loss-of-earnings benefits have been cut off because Ontario’s worker compensation board (WSIB) considers he could still reasonably be expected to land a full-time sales job in Canada….
Mr Brown is not only a victim of the deeming policy (by which the Board, if it considers a worker capable of performing a job, cuts their benefits accordingly), but also of the frequent practice that sees migrant workers sent home after injury with limited access to needed health and rehabilitation services.
Injured worker advocates say the system is fundamentally discriminatory
The legal notice filed in a recently launched Charter challenge by IAVGO Community Legal Clinic, regarding a similar case, argues that the worker’s equality rights have been violated, since the only reason he could not access loss-of-earning benefits and health care was that he was a migrant. “As racialized persons working in largely white communities, (migrant workers) face racial discrimination on the job and in the communities where they work and live.”
While the WSIB states migrant workers who are injured on the job in Ontario are entitled to the same benefits and services as any Ontario worker with WSIB coverage, critics claim it is absurd for the Board to treat migrant workers as if they still live in Ontario, rather than based on their actual circumstances. As a migrant worker, Mr Brown’s visa was tied to his farmwork in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Given his injuries, this is work that multiple physicians have said he is unlikely to ever perform again, so he returned home.
Advocates call on the WSIB to do better – and at the very least judge a migrant injured worker’s “ability to get a new job and access health care based on conditions in their own country, rather than in Canada — where they are unlikely to ever live or work again.”