Canadians seek probe into Jamaican migrant deaths

A Canadian labor union is calling on the Ontario coroner to hold an inquest into the death of two Jamaican migrant workers last month.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCWU) said Ralston White, 36, Paul Roach, 44, died while trying to fix a pump for an apple cider vat at Filsingers’ Organic Foods and Orchards in Ayton, about 70 kilometers south of Owen Sound, Ontario.

The union said the Jamaican farm workers were overcome by fumes on Sept. 10.

The UFCWU said it wants an inquest to see if new regulations can be established to deal with enclosed spaces, stating that most of these cases involve multiple deaths.

“The death of the two workers in Ayton is a tragic reminder of the dangers and risks involved in the agriculture sector,”’ said Wayne Hanley, the national president for the union.

More than 6,000 Jamaican migrants are employed on over 300 Canadian farms, according to the UFCWU.

Ontario was forced to allow agricultural workers freedom to associate after a Supreme Court ruling in 2001.

However, legislation stopped short of allowing them collective bargaining rights, the UFCWU. The UFCW said it is appealing that decision to the Supreme Court.

National Coordinator, Stan Raper, said the chief coroner of the province of Ontario, Dr. Andrew McCallum, is awaiting the results from the Ministry of Labor investigation and the coroners’ autopsy report before deciding whether to call an inquest into the deaths.

Raper said the union wants more regulations in place concerning confined spaces, unguarded equipment and other issues affecting farm workers.

He said the union has been lobbying the Minister of Labor about the issue, saying the province does not have to wait for a coroner’s inquest before enacting new legislation.

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