“Tribunal slams WSIB practice that cuts benefits to injured migrant workers” / Sara Mojtehedzadeh (Toronto Star, Oct. 5, 2017)
In what is being called a landmark decision, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT) has ruled that Ontario’s workers’ compensation board’s practice of cutting benefits to injured migrant workers by deeming them able to find alternative employment in Ontario is illegal.
The case is that of migrant worker Michael Campbell who came to Ontario under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program. After injuring his back in a 2008 farm accident in Niagara-on-the-Lake, he returned home to Jamaica and, because of his injuries, can never return to Ontario under the Program. (As reported in a 2014 Canadian Medical Association Study, between 2001 and 2011 787 migrant farm workers had their work visa terminated and were sent back to their home countries for medical reasons.) Although Mr Campbell lost his right to live and work in Canada and has only basic literacy and numeracy skills, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), through its practice of deeming, nevertheless determined that Mr Campbell could work as a cashier and so cut his loss-of-earnings benefits.
System “beyond Kafkaesque”
While the decision is binding only in this specific case, Maryth Yachnin and fellow legal representatives at IAVGO Community Legal Clinic are hopeful this appeal ruling will open the door for other migrant workers to access just compensation. While the WSIB has responded that it will study the Appeals Tribunal ruling, unless the Board changes its policies and procedures injured migrant workers will continue to be, in the words of Justicia for Migrant Workers’ Chris Ramsaroop, “discarded, disposed of and their health-care responsibilities downloaded on their home communities.”
( An end to cutting benefits by deeming is one of the three key demands by Ontario’s injured workers in the current Workers’ Comp Is A Right Campaign)
- Balkissoon, Denise. 2016 Sep. 19. “Migrant Farm Workers Deserve Better From Canada.” Globe and Mail
- Braganza, Chantal. 2016 Sep. 16. “What You Need to Know to Understand Migrant Labour in Canada.” TVO Current Affairs. (includes link to video documentary “Migrant Dreams”)
- Aversa, Theresa. 2016 Feb. 2. Crisis of Control: Access to Occupational Health and Safety and Workers Compensation in the SAWP and the TFWP. (Video – Plenary presentation at the Institute of Work and Health, Toronto.
- Bodnar, Nicole. 2014 Sep. 19. “Sick, Fired and Deported: What Happens to Injured or Ill Migrant Farm Workers in Ontario.” U of T News (summary of the CMAJ study “Medical Repatriation of Migrant Farm Workers in Ontario”)