An Ontario migrant worker called on the federal government Thursday to provide permanent residency status for all workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Luis Gabriel Flores Flores spoke at a press conference alongside an employment lawyer and Syed Hussan, executive Director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) at the office of federal Minister of Immigration, Marco Mendicino.
“We’re here to talk about Mr. Flores because what happened to him, can happen to everyone,” Hussan said. “We will not allow the mistreatment and mis-abuse of migrant workers to take place anywhere.”
Flores claims he was fired from his job working at a farm for speaking to journalists after he tested positive for COVID-19. Flores read a letter addressed to Mendicino in Spanish, which was subsequently translated to English.
“What happened to me is what happens to migrants when we try to defend their rights,” Flores said. “We have been subjected to a system of temporary immigration where if we stand up for ourselves, we are deported.”
“…We need permanent resident status now, so workers can have the power to protect ourselves.”
Hussan said that three migrant workers have died in the province due to COVID-19 and that 1,100 have been infected.
In a release from the MWAC, it states that Flores tested positive for the virus while he worked at a farm. It says that Flores spoke to journalists about the “poor living conditions and mistreatment” at the farm.
The release goes on to say that a bunkmate of Flores, Juan Lopez Chaparro, died due to COVID-19 and that the following day, Flores was fired by the farm.
Hussan said migrant workers need the opportunity to be able to protect themselves if they believe they are in an unsafe or abusive environment and “that means, full immigration status for all.”
Over 10,000 people have signed a petition calling for permanent resident status and a visual petition containing over 200 signatures from migrant workers themselves, was posted on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office.
As for Flores, he said he was told he would be sent back to Mexico so he left the farm and is now staying with a supporter in coordination with the MWAC.
On July 20, Flores filed an anti-reprisals claim to the Ontario Ministry of Labour for $40,401.35 – the maximum possible amount under existing laws – according to the MWAC release.
His work permit, that is solely tied to the one farm, expires Nov. 30 and Flores said he now does not know how he will support his family with no permanent housing or income.
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