DNA collection of migrant workers ruled a human rights abuse

A landmark ruling by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal found that the province’s police force violated the rights of 54 migrant workers during a DNA collection raid in 2013.

Ontario Provincial Police collected DNA samples from dozens of migrant workers in the region following a sexual assault that year near Bayham, Ontario. The victim described his assailant as a black migrant worker with an accent, who was clean-shaven, in his 20s and 30s, and between five feet 10 and six feet tall.

However, “despite these additional physical descriptions, police conducted DNA analysis on all migrant workers in the area, regardless of whether they matched these additional physical descriptions of the suspect,” Marla Burstyn, the judge in the case, wrote. in his decision, which was released on Thursday. The decision deemed DNA scanning discriminatory and recognized the precarious immigration status of migrant workers, who can be fired or deported at any time by their employer.

A farm owner decided that workers who refused to take a DNA test would not be invited next year, according to the ruling. That, in a nutshell, speaks to the power imbalance that exists between migrant farm workers participating in Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and their bosses, Chris Ramsaroop, an organizer with Justice for migrant workerssaying Canadian National Observer.

Importantly, the decision recognized that structural racism is built into the migrant worker program, said Shane Martinez, the Toronto-based human rights attorney representing the workers in the case.

“I think these acknowledgments of how toxic and abusive the program is will definitely help us in future cases,” Martinez said. Canadian National Observer.

This is the first human rights case in Canada investigating allegations of discrimination and systemic racial profiling by police towards migrant farm workers, he said, adding that while the ruling is new, complaints about these issues are not. .

“[Anti-Black racism] has been an essential part of [SAWP] since its inception in 1966, and continues to play a prominent role to this day,” he said.

“This is not an accident that workers are treated differently and adversely because of their race and place of origin. This is largely because workers are exploited when they come from the Global South to work here in Canada. The state benefits from it, the agricultural industry benefits from it. And this case, I think, just exemplifies how troubling this arrangement is and the need for us to take action and change it.”

While the decision is undoubtedly a positive for migrant workers, it does not address the underlying causes of the abuse migrant workers face, said Jenny Kwan, NDP critic for immigration, refugee and citizenship. Canadian National Observer.

A landmark ruling by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal found that the province’s police force violated the rights of 54 migrant workers during a DNA collection raid in 2013. #MigrantWorkers #Police Services #Anti-Black Racism

“What the NDP wants the government to do is provide all migrant workers with permanent resident status upon arrival, so that when they arrive in Canada, they have their rights and are protected,” Kwan said.

In a statement emailed to Canadian National ObserverCitizenship, Refugees and Immigration Canada Communications Officer Jeffrey MacDonald said: “Everyone deserves a work environment where they are safe and their rights are respected. The safety of foreign workers is a key priority for the Government of Canada.” He then outlined measures in Budget 2021, including $110 million to “further strengthen worker safety,” $54.9 million to increase inspections to ensure fair wages and working conditions, and $6.3 million to improve work permits. open for vulnerable workers.

Many of these so-called temporary or seasonal workers have been coming to Canada for decades, Ramsaroop said.

“They are part of our communities, but they are not seen as part of the communities. They are seen simply as an extension of an employer, an extension of a farm,” she said.

“We have criminalized this entire community throughout rural Canada, and this decision is a way for workers to basically speak out against that kind of criminalization.”

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canadian National Observer

Leave a Comment