Denial of coverage in British Columbia violates terms of contract
Vancouver (28 March 2006) - Migrant farm worker advocates are accusing the British Columbia Liberals of violating Canada's Health Care Act by denying migrant farm workers access to health care.
Justicia/Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW), a Canadian-based advocacy group fighting for the rights of the workers, is demanding that they be immediately included under the province's MSP health insurance scheme, so that they can be given basic health coverage.
The issue is especially acute for workers from Mexico, who have been coming to B.C. for the past three years. Up to 2,000 are expected this year.
Workers employed under the federal government's Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) are provided with universal health care coverage in every other province except B.C.
J4MW is highlighting the case of migrant labourer Javier Alonzo de Leon of Coahuila, Mexico. He was employed by Purewal Blueberries in Pitt Meadows, B.C., from June to December 2005.
Before his scheduled departure from Canada, Javier suffered a series of strokes at work, making him incapable of returning home. He was forced to remain without receiving support from either Mexican government officials or representatives from Services Canada (formerly HRSDC Canada), who are supposed to assist workers in such situations.
The worker was informed that he might have to pay thousands of dollars in hospital bills. Fortunately, advocates from J4MW and sympathetic medical staff intervened to assist him. He has now returned to Coahuila, Mexico, but is not receiving any financial or medical support from either the Canadian or Mexican governments. His health is precarious.
J4MW is demanding that B.C. change its policy to assure coverage for migrant farm workers.
"If Mexican and other migrant farm workers are brought to Canada to work legally, they should be treated like Canadian workers, just as their contract stipulates," the organization says. "The three-month waiting period should be waived, as coverage needs to be there from the time they start to work in Canada."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has a long history of backing the fight to organize migrant farm workers in Canada and to improve their rights and working conditions. NUPGE
More information:• Justice for Migrant Workers - J4MW