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Human rights hearing for seasonal farm worker killed on the job

BRANTFORD, Ont. (Canadian OH&S News)


BRANTFORD, Ont. (Canadian OH&S News)

The high-profile death of a Jamaican farm worker, fatally injured more than a decade ago, is headed for a human rights hearing.

Ned Livingston Peart came to Ontario from his native of Jamaica as part of Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, hired by a tobacco farm near Brantford, Ont.

Peart was killed in August of 2002 after a skid fell on top of him. The Coroner’s Act dictates that any death as a result of a workplace accident in the construction and mining sectors. While the family had requested a coroner’s inquest into his death, typically foreign workers are not extended this same opportunity as the rest of Ontario-born workers.

The group Justice for Migrant Workers, based out of Toronto, is advocating on behalf of the Peart family. They said that temporary and seasonal workers should also be protected under the same laws as the rest of the workers in Canada and have argued that they are in fact entitled to those same protections as part of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

“The Peart family still has a lot of unanswered questions about how Ned passed away,” said Tzazana Miranda Leal, an organizer with Justice for Migrant Workers. “They are not satisfied with the police investigation and claim to have heard conflicting stories on what happened. They also want to ensure that preventable accidents like the one that took Ned’s life don’t happen again, and that no more families have to go through what they have gone through.”

She argued that if seasonal workers were awarded citizenship status upon arrival, the ingrained risks and dangers of the farming industry would not be as threatening.

“Only when migrant workers have access to permanent immigration status will the increased dangers inherent of the program will disappear,” she said, “for as long as workers are in Canada with precarious, temporary status, they will continue to have a fraction of the rights that other workers enjoy.”

According to data from the Justice for Migrant Workers group, there are about 19,000 workers who come to Canada from the Caribbean and Mexico each year to work in the agricultural industry. According to information from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, 17 seasonal agricultural workers were killed been 1996 and 2002, the year Peart died.

“We have a responsibility to demand justice for my brother,” Wilbert Peart, brother of Ned Peart, said in a statement. “We must ensure that his death was not in vain, and that changes must occur to improve the conditions of migrant farm workers in Canada.”

The Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario declined to comment out of respect for the family and the human rights tribunal process.

The final hearing date is slated for June 28.

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