By RON FANFAIR
Jamaica’s Consul General in Toronto George Ramocan has described the death of two migrant workers on a Central Ontario farm as “tragic.”
Paul Roach, 37, from Clarendon and 44-year-old Ralston White of Manchester died last Friday at Filsinger’s Organic Foods apple orchard and processing facility in Ayton, just south of Owen Sound.
“This is really, really sad,” said Ramocan. “Here are two men who came to Canada to work hard and provide for themselves and their families. For this to happen to these men who, like most farm workers, regard their selection for the program as a privilege is heartbreaking and my heart goes out to their families.”
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union and Agriculture Workers Alliance president Wayne Hanley said his organizations are saddened by the deaths.
“For more than two decades, the UFWC Canada has led the campaign for improved safety and workplace rights for migrant and domestic farm workers,” he said. “The deaths of the two in Ayton are a tragic reminder of the dangers and risks involved in the agricultural sector. Certainly what happened has to be investigated, but at the same time the Ministry of Labour must also take a more proactive role with stepped up inspections and increased regulations to reduce and prevent farm place fatalities and accidents.”
These are the first work-related deaths of Jamaican farm workers in Canada since 39-year-old Ned Peart died in a tobacco field near Brantford in 2002. He was crushed to death while loading a bin lift.
In September 2005, William Bell and Desmond McNeil died in a traffic accident in Delhi, Norfolk County. They along with Frederick Smith were riding bicycles when they were struck by a motor vehicle. Bell and McNeil succumbed to their injuries while Smith recovered.
Nearly 25,000 migrant agricultural workers come to Canada each year under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). Jamaica was the first country to participate in the program, sending 264 workers in 1964.
Approximately 6,000 Jamaicans are employed on 300 Canadian farms this season.