By TOM GODFREY
A Bradford church is rallying to help injured farm worker Kenroy Williams whose health care is being threatened even though he still suffers from a car crash that killed a co-worker and injured eight others.
A fundraiser is being held at JJ’s Caribbean Cusine, in Barrie, on April 5 to help Williams, who is not allowed to work and is having his health care coverage appealed by the Ontario government.
Organizers said the proceeds will help Williams meet his basic living expenses.
About 40 supporters of migrant workers packed a March 25 hearing at Osgoode Hall courts to hear an appeal of his OHIP. A written decision will be issued at a later date.
The province is appealing a recent decision by the Health Services Appeal and Review Board to extend care to the two workers. The Board and another panel have ruled the workers are eligible for Ontario health care.
Cherry pickers Williams, 40, and Clarke, survived the terrible crash that killed a fellow worker from the Caribbean. The men were being driven to work in August 2012, when their vehicle was hit on a rural road, near Oakland, Ont.
Eight workers survived the ordeal, which was one of the worst work-related incidents involving farm workers in Ontario.
Most of the workers returned home, but Williams and Clarke refused to leave Canada at the end of their contracts citing they could not receive, much less afford, proper medical care in Jamaica.
“It is terrible because I am in pain all the time,” Williams told Share. “I can’t work to make any money to send home to help support my family.”
The men are thankful for the support from the community.
Pastor Eaton Grant, of the Greater Life Community Church, said congregation members have been able to help Williams with rent and other basic needs.
“It is unbelievable how the government treat these workers when they become injured,” Grant told Share. “He is living on handouts and cannot help himself, much less his family.”
Grant last week drove Williams to a Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) office in Toronto to obtain an extension of his visa. It is unknown if Williams will be granted the extension.
“They (CIC) would like to send him back home,” Grant said. “How is he going to get the medical care that he needs in Jamaica.”
He joins other community members in asking for the workers to be allowed to keep their medical coverage and remain in Canada as permanent residents.
Chris Ramsaroop, of Justicia For Migrant Workers, said seasonal farm workers are quickly sent home when they become injured on the job.
“I think these men are unfairly treated by the Ontario government,” Ramsaroop said. “They were injured through no fault of their own.”
He alleged their employer attempted to return the men to Jamaica “after the accident despite their serious medical conditions and before they could receive adequate health care.”
Ramsaroop said the men held valid visas and were in Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program and had medical coverage until the end of the farming season.
“This is a work related accident and they should be eligible for workers’ compensation and temporary health care,” he told Share. “These men have been through enough and should be granted status in Canada.”
The men have had their work permits revoked until their immigration status in Canada has been dealt with.