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Community Forum Report Migrant Farm Workers in Ontario: Health and HIV/AIDS Ramada Plaza Hotel 300 Jarvis Street, Toronto, Ontario February 24, 2011

Produced by

Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS) www.acas.org

Sponsored by Public Health Agency of Canada Copyright ďƒŁACAS 2011


Table of Contents Introduction, Objective, About ACAS………………………………………………………. 3 Glossary……………………………………………………………………………………… 4 SECTION I: Panel Discussions…………………………………………………………… 5-8 SECTION II: Small Group Discussions………………………………………………… 9-10 Appendix A: Program……………………………………………………………………… 11

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Introduction In 2007, ACAS initiated a needs assessment of Asian migrant farm workers (AMFW) in Ontario and found that there was an emerging need to provide culturally appropriate HIV/STI and Hepatitis C prevention education among mainly Thai and some Filipino migrant farm workers. By 2009, ACAS successfully received funding from Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) AIDS Community Action Program (ACAP) Ontario and began a 3 year, pilot outreach program (Asian Migrant Farm Workers’ Health Promotion Project) in Southern Ontario. This report would not have been made possible without the dedicated commitment and support of ACAS volunteers and staff. Objective The Migrant Farm Workers in Ontario: Health and HIV/AIDS Community Forum is part of the project activities to disseminate lessons learned to staff of AIDS service organizations, project partners, healthcare professionals, community members, and stakeholders. Format This one-day forum consisted of interactive panel presentations, small group discussions and a large group, strategy session. A light breakfast, lunch and refreshments were provided for the participants during the day and later in the day, participants were asked to complete an evaluation.

ABOUT ACAS Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS) is a charitable, non-profit, community-based organization. It provides HIV/AIDS education, prevention, and support services for the East and Southeast Asian Canadian communities. These programs are based on a pro-active and holistic approach to HIV/AIDS and are provided in a collaborative, empowering, and nondiscriminatory manner.

Disclaimer: The suggestions and opinions expressed in this report do not reflect those of the funder or participating organizations. This document is intended for dissemination purposes only and the contents may be reproduced or modified provided that ACAS is acknowledged.

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Glossary of Acronyms AIDS – Acquired Immune Syndrome ACAS – Asian Community AIDS Services ACCHO – African and Caribbean Council on HIV/AIDS in Ontario AMFW – Asian Migrant Farm Worker APAA – Africans in Partnerships Against AIDS ASO – AIDS Service Organizations HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus IAVGO – Industrial Accident Victim‟s Group of Ontario LSWP – Low Skilled Worker Program MFW – Migrant Farm Worker OHCOW – Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers OHIP – Ontario Health Insurance Plan SAWP – Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program STI – Sexually Transmitted Infection WSIB – Workplace Safety and Insurance Board

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SECTION I: Panel Discussions 1.0 Welcome Noulmook Sutdhibhasilp, the ACAS Executive Director welcomed participants and stated that the forum was to provide a venue for service providers from AIDS service organizations, academics, migrant farm workers (MFW), migrant farm workers‟ rights advocacy groups, and health professionals to exchange ideas and update each other about work in the areas of HIV/STI prevention work in Ontario. She also raised concerns regarding rumours implicating 2 Thai MFW who allegedly passed away had AIDS. She emphasized that AIDS stigma still exists and it is an issue of professional responsibility in helping and respect MFW. Forum participants were asked to introduce themselves and express what their expectations and hopes were for the day‟s agenda. Most wanted to learn more about migrant farm workers issues and some wanted to share strategies to help address the emerging concerns raised by frontline workers who have been helping MFW in Ontario. 1.1

Panel #1: Current situation of migrant farm workers in Ontario Expert panelists were asked to present different perspectives affecting MFWs especially regarding health, legal and advocacy issues.

1.2

Panelist #1: Dr. Andres Furet is originally from Mexico. He currently works at the International Migration Centre and volunteers at the reception centre. He was there to discuss the current health issues facing migrant farm workers. He presented with power point slides (which will be available upon request) and highlighted the following key points:  There is a rise in Low Skilled Worker Program and SAWP (Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program) foreign temporary worker streams – overview of differences in processing time and access to services and medical.  Power point slides showed various statistical data and comparisons between the two streams, and actual field notes and images.  Medical exams are required for designated countries (e.g. Thailand, Philippines).  Upon arriving in Canada, workers are vulnerable to poor nutrition, weight loss, sleep deprivation, STIs and reproductive health issues (i.e. lack of condoms), delays in health coverage, shortage of health practitioners, access to transportation, interpretation services, privacy concerns (i.e. living conditions), lack of cultural appropriate programming for MFW‟s, lack of knowledge in basic work related injury processes (i.e. how to fill out a WSIB claim).

1.3

Panelist #2: Cathy Kolar works at the Legal Clinic (Windsor-Lemington-Essex counties) and has represented mostly Thai workers with their individual cases (i.e. compensation, contract negotiations). She provided the context of her work and an overview of the relationship between Canadian recruiters, employers and immigration consultants. There was no power point but referenced some of her field notes/observations.  The temporary foreign workers program has doubled in size over the years.  Recruitment occurs within the sending countries (recruiters are often „white‟ Canadians working with locals).

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 

1.4

Mostly Thai nationals from the North East region of Thailand who were misled by promises of stable work and earnings for „small‟ fees charged by unscrupulous recruiters/consultants. MFW candidates are saddled with multiple consultant/recruiter fees prior to working in Canada and then to find out that may be hidden fees charged for „additional‟ services provided by the recruiter/consultant. In some places, work environment is hostile because there are workers who report about other employees to their bosses. MFWs are basically without legal rights when they come to Canada (i.e. living accommodations, work compensation/overtime pay, medical coverage, status, etc.). Their salaries are different from contract or the promised minimum wage because they were paid with piece work. Discussed precarious conditions when it comes to accessing services (i.e. legal, medical, social services) due to complex and bureaucratic government agencies that only deal with citizens. For example, there is a 3-month waiting period of OHIP, not immediately and the resulting consequences for workers if they lose their jobs while in Canada. Basically, if workers lose their jobs, they would lose their status and will be forced to leave Canada. And they may lose paying-off the debt from back home and the money they owe the recruiters and the employers. Past and current working conditions bordered on human trafficking scenarios, according to the speaker. Commented on how volunteers (e.g. doctors, nurses, social workers, lawyers, etc.) and agencies mentioned in the forum are working with MFWs and government agencies to help workers properly access services. Some MFW are hopefully coming to Canada with permanent resident status.

Panelist #3: Chris Ramsaroop is a community activist representing Justice for Migrant Workers (Justicia) and currently teaches at George Brown College. He has helped MFWs organize forums, marches and events by advocating on their behalf on labour and justice issues. He spoke about linkages between the current temporary foreign worker program to modern indentureship and enslavement.  Opened the presentation by highlighting linking the racialization of the MFW to nation building. (e.g. Chinese railroad workers and the current MFWs in the agrisector). Referred to labour exploitation.  Briefly highlighted the differences in the SAWP (workers from the Caribbean & Mexico) and LSWP (workers from Southeast Asia).  For the LSWP, before workers were primarily employed in the agri-sector, now they‟re being recruited to work as cleaners/dishwashers in restaurants.  There is basically no comprehensive labour legislation that specifically protects/addresses the needs of temporary foreign workers (i.e. workers have no right to organize against unfair labour practices).  Employment standards do not regulate work in agriculture sector: minimum wage, hours of work, protection  Currently there is maximum 4-year work permit for MFWs (i.e. workers can‟t come back the following year and must reapply and go through the same process as before). Recent regulation changes of working in Canada for 4 years and not allowed to return to work in Canada for 6 years

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1.5

Current policies are „band-aid‟ solutions; more allies and resistance movements are needed to effect change in legislation; current government laws work to „silence‟ the workers.  Immigration issue wherein federal legislation is different from provincial so the solutions for MFW is difficult and complex  Temporary status upon arrival is also an issue  History of rejections or the reasons for rejection –disposable workforce  Ministry of Immigration – the government does not want to get this solved  Human trafficking – the government is refusing to do something about it

Questions or Comments from the Floor

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How do we challenge the current systems in place (e.g. the “Good Things Grow in Ontario” advertisements)? Panel discussed ways to bring the issue into the mainstream by challenging locally grown markets about the working conditions. Why do workers go underground? The panel explained that if the workers don‟t have enough money to pay the loans or fees to the recruiters/consultants, they often resort to hiding to delay possible expulsion after work visa expiration. How do we outreach to them? Develop trust and meaningful relationship between the MFWs and the allies. What happens if a worker contracts HIV while working in Ontario? There is a possibility that a worker could be sent home. When workers had a medical examination in their home countries before departure, they are not necessarily screened for HIV or other STIs. Essentially they are examined to be „fit‟ to work (i.e. physically and mentally able). If there is a rumour that a worker is „sick‟, it is likely the employer can force the worker to get tested here and in their home countries. If the worker tests positive s/he may automatically be sent home and lose all OHIP/SIN coverage. This results in workers going into hiding to prevent this from happening. What happens when a female worker gets pregnant while under work contract? The worker essentially gets sent home. It is not a government mandate to provide accessible health care services especially for the MFWs (e.g. flexible hospital hours, testing sites, available doctors/nurses, etc.). Comment from the floor: “There‟s basically a lack of doctors in rural areas for residents like in the Durham region let alone for MFWs”. Discussion moved to general living conditions for female workers (i.e. living conditions and access to reproductive health). Apparently there are incidents of sexual harassment and physical safety is women‟s concerns. Some seek help from other male workers and/or employers. Sometimes they are too afraid to ask for help or can‟t communicate their concern due to language barriers. Who are the recruiters? Most of them are Canadian nationals who work with the sending country‟s local consultant (i.e. interpreters). They travel to the sending country and then return to Canada in order to coordinate in the „orientation‟ of the workers. Recruiters often work in collusion with consultants and lawyers to work around current immigration and labour legislation.

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1.6

Panel #2: Perspective of Migrant Farm Workers Two Thai MFWs shared their experiences on how they were recruited and their decisions to come to work in Canada. They briefly described their working conditions and challenges they encountered. Due to the sensitivity of the subject matters discussed and emotional content, the MFW participant‟s had the option of not answering any questions. A Thai interpreter was available to translate the between the Thai MFWs and forum participants. Forum participants asked the following questions. 1. What were the workers‟ wages and were they paid consistently, in terms of the amount of pay and whether they were paid on time. 2. Question about living conditions, e.g. Do the workers cook their own food?; Where to buy Thai food ?; Have they been keeping in touch with their families?; Were they able to pay their debts?; Who pays for the costs, i.e. airfare, accommodation in employers‟ premises? 3. Relationship with an employer and whether employer knows they are here at the community forum. 4. What are the employment conditions like here in Canada versus Thailand (eg. in Thailand workers in factory have annual medical examinations). 5. Question about what they plan to do after the 4 year work visa expiry 6. How can we as service providers give support to them? Response from speakers: We would like you to our voice so that others (Canadian and Thai government) are aware of what we have to go through and the range of social, economical, and policy issues. 7. A participant asked, "if you were to have friends or relatives interested in becoming migrant workers what advice would you give them? Answer, “Find out procedures, step by step information, particularly issues around labour rights and the rights of migrant workers, and when the jobs that were promised diminished or work contract was not honoured”. 8. What is the role of Human Rights Commission (answered by Chris). There is a draw back in utilizing the HRC system in that the system looks at individual migrant worker situation rather than critically examining the temporary migrant worker system regime. 9. Is the accommodation that employers provided excluded from the Landlord-Tenant Act?

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SECTION II: Small Group Discussions 2.0

HIV/STIs, Prevention & Sexual health Promotion: Updates from ACAS, AIDS Niagara Participating ASOs ACAS, AIDS Niagara, and Latin@ Positiv@ shared their strategies in doing outreach with the MFWs. Workers updated forum participants on their organization‟s observations, challenges and accomplishments thus far.

2.1

ACAS’ Asian MFW Health Promotion Project – AMFW (2009-2012) ACAS started the project after receiving information about Thai migrant farm workers‟ health issues and exploitations caused by recruiters or employers from need assessment survey and community members. ACAS organized the AMFW Symposium and HIV in 2008 and began implementing the HIV/STIs/Hep C prevention project based on the fact that Thai workers needs are not limited to health issues but also workers‟ rights, taxation, English language, compensation etc. So workshops and educational materials were designed to fit those needs. AMFW outreach team is flexible to the workers‟ available time. Moreover they must be aware of sensitive issues such as workers‟ status, recruiter or employer‟s presence at a workshop. Since 2009, the project held 5 health fairs for 340 participants, 32 HIV/STI/Hep C workshops for 455 participants, 8 volunteer and peer educator workshops for 18 volunteers in St. Catherines, Chatham-Kent, Leamington, Cambridge, Harriston, Walkerton, and Whitby.

2.2

Questions from participants 1. How effective is the strategy thus far? They trust us and would contact us when they have health and other concerns. Most information they need is about how to access services. 2. How is the strategy based on their level of formal education? Begin with basic information and more details for those who inquire. 3. Was there cooperation with ASOs in the region? Always.

2.4

AIDS Niagara Newcomer Support AIDS Niagara started doing outreach once a week with the SAWP Mexican workers last year. They go to a grocery stores and places where MFWs shop and eat with Spanish speaking volunteers. Condom packages and educational materials were distributed at the outreach.

2.5

Questions from participants 1. How was the MFW community in the Niagara region viewed by locals? 2. Language? Was communicating with MFW difficult? 3. Were AIDS Niagara staff able to visit Mexican/Guatemalan party places?

2.6

Reflection From The Small Group Discussion: Planning and Resources After the small group discussions, the forum participants were asked to reflect and brainstorm on the next steps. a) What dose individual organization wish to do in the year 2011-2012  AIDS Committee York Region- resource information exchange  Justicia- contact day for outreach as a resource e.g. WSIB

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     

AIDS Committee Durham, Outreach with MFW, form coalition, 2 health forums, strong volunteer pool (Spanish speaking) Making a link with IAVGO and OHCOW – Legal clinic for injured migrant workers, local community health centres, or groups that work with MFW AIDS Committee of Kitchener/Waterloo to partner with ACAS for orientation. ACAS to develop manual for outreach (best practices) APAA -- ACCHO, multilingual resources CATIE --HIV / Hep C resources, national reach, case study.

b) How can we support each other?  Need to support advocacy coalition groups (Justicia)  Research studies, inform practice  Form, network with health, social, legal coalition group, Niagara Migrant Workers Group  Health Fair - AIDS Niagara  Latin@ Positiv@s - ask members to help with a health fair, availability resources  Greater improvement to share resources (e.g. multilingual resources with CATIE)  Share resources in geographic location where MFW work and live c) Next Steps  Inform Health Professions through regulatory body such as Ontario College of Nurses  Share today conversations with Absent ASOs, ED. Retreat.  Develop research questions  Collaborate with OHTN to develop research questions  We need data on rates, risk, factors, affected populations  Bill 210 Advocacy (Provincial)  Federal campaign  Opportunity to develop campaign to raise awareness.  Develop resource to collate info e.g. policy, law, practices  Reduce barriers to access services  To work together as partners

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APPENDIX A ACAS Community Forum Migrant Farm Workers in Ontario: Health and HIV/AIDS Thursday February 24, 2011 | Ramada Plaza Hotel, Room A 300 Jarvis Street, Toronto, Ontario M5B 2C5 Agenda 08:30 – 09:00 a.m.

Registration

09:00 – 09:15 a.m.

Welcome, Introductions & Ground Rules

09:15 – 10:45 a.m.

Panel Discussion on the current labour and health situations of Migrant Farm Workers in Ontario Speakers:  Dr. Andres Furet, International Migrant Research Centre/OHCOW Migrant Workers Clinic  Cathy Kolar, Legal Assistance of Windsor  Chris Ramsaroop, Justice for Migrant Workers

10:45 – 11:00 a.m. 11:00 – 12:15 p.m. 12:15 – 12:45 p.m.

Break From a migrant farm worker‟s perspective (with interpreter) Lunch

12:45 – 01:45 p.m.

Small Group Discussion: Updates from ACAS, AIDS Niagara

01:45 – 02:45 p.m.

Small Group Discussions: Planning and Resources.  What individual organization wish to do in the year 2011-12?  How can we support each other?  Next steps (communication, action plan?)

02:45 – 03:00 p.m.

Break

03:00 – 03:45 p.m.

Report back to big group and discussion

03:45 – 04:00 p.m.

Wrap Up & Evaluation

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Community Forum Report - Migrant Farm Workers in Ontario: Health and HIV/AIDS