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Press Release

Ontario Government Challenges Legal Right to Healthcare for Injured Migrant Workers

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Sept. 6, 2013) - On August 16, 2013, the Health Services Appeal and Review Board issued a historic decision granting OHIP coverage to migrant farm workers in medical emergencies. Today, the Ontario government indicated that it would be challenging the decision by filing a reconsideration request.

On August 9th, 2012 Kenroy Williams and Denville Clarke were among nine Jamaican migrant workers who were driving to work when their employer's van swerved to avoid an oncoming car. The van rolled several times killing one passenger and severely injuring several others.

Their employer attempted to unilaterally return both Mr. Williams and Mr. Clarke to Jamaica despite their serious medical conditions and before they could receive adequate healthcare. Family members and activists with Justicia for Migrant Workers intervened to help the workers remain in Ontario for their desperately needed medical treatment.

Both Mr. Williams and Mr. Clarke were employed under the auspices of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers program (SAWP), a federally operated employer- driven program that ties migrant workers to a single employer and denies these workers social and labour mobility. As with all SAWP workers, Mr. Williams' and Mr. Clarke's OHIP coverage expired at the end of the farming season, even though they both remained seriously injured and in need of healthcare in Ontario.

The Health Services Appeal and Review Board decision allowed the workers an extension of their OHIP. This is the first time such an appeal has been made and granted since the inception of the farm worker program in 1966. The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care filed a reconsideration request with the Board today.

By challenging this decision the government is taking the position that Ontario has no responsibility to the migrant workers who get injured doing the dangerous work of putting food on our tables.

"Migrant workers come to Canada healthy and want to return to their families healthy at the end of the season. It's not right, and the consequences are devastating, when Ontario sends migrant workers home after an injury without proper medical treatment," says Jessica Ponting, an organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers.

The Health Services Appeal and Review Board oversees appeals from people who have been denied OHIP coverage. Their landmark August 16th ruling recognizes the right of migrant workers under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker's Program to receive OHIP in cases of medical emergencies that require the person to extend their stay in Ontario. IAVGO Community Legal Clinic handled the case on behalf of Mr. Clarke and Mr. Williams.

Justicia for Migrant Workers is a non-profit political collective that advocates for the rights of migrant workers.

Justicia for Migrant Workers
Chris Ramsaroop
(647) 834-4932
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