Workers Centre helps build Instructor base for agricultural worker project
Sometimes language is a bridge not a barrier. At a unique training opportunity this spring a group of volunteer activists learned how to capitalize on this as part of an outreach program to migrant agricultural workers.
Co-funded by the Workers Health and Safety Centre and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), a group of Spanish-speaking activists from Canadian Union of Public
Employees, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, United Food and Commercial Workers, United Steelworkers of America and participants from community organizations attended an instructor training session in Port Elgin.
This latest training opportunity will help bolster capacity within the Global Justice Care Van Project
, an outreach and support program for more than 16,000 migrant agricultural workers who come to Ontario each year, many of them from Mexico and Latin America. Care Van
is sponsored by the CLC and UFCW Canada.
Victor Carazzino, coordinator of UFCW Local 175/633 training and education centre, helped facilitate the session. “It was tremendously successful. Participants really appreciated the information.” Along with agriculture specific health and safety content, Carazzino says participants also learned basic adult education techniques he hopes they’ll use in their role not only as instructors, but also as community organizers and advocates.
Emmanuelle Lopez believes in community activism. From an outreach program coordinated through Catholic Community Services of York Region, Lopez brings valuable experience from working with the migrant farm population in her community, most of whom are Latinos. On farm visits she witnessed workers eating meals with pesticide-contaminated hands and questions, “What’s the worth of coming to Canada to work if you can’t leave with your health?” Lopez says there’s a tremendous need for health and safety information among this vulnerable group of workers and hopes to further contribute by translating additional health and safety resources into Spanish.
Pablo Godoy came away from Port Elgin full of hope. “The opportunity to communicate and share ideas with other Latin Americans involved in the social justice movement in Ontario was invaluable.” Godoy, a member of UFCW 1000A, spent much of last summer volunteering at the Migrant Agricultural Workers’ Support Centre in Leamington, a Care Van
initiative, where he helped workers read and speak English and assisted with legal case work.
This latest training session follows from a similarly productive one last spring also sponsored by the Workers Centre and the CLC. Then, another group of Spanish-speaking activists helped draft curriculum for Health and Safety Issues for Agricultural Workers
a resource manual developed in association with staff of the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers in Toronto.
To date more than 3,600 copies of the manual have been distributed to farm workers in 18 different Ontario communities.
The manual is a first says Stan Raper, Care Van
Coordinator. “Thousands of migrant farm workers have been coming to Canada since 1966 under special bilateral agreements but last summer was the first time many of them received any health and safety information about the hazards of their work.” Raper observes agricultural workers are excluded from protection under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act
. All the more reason he says to reach out to them with information and training resources.
The Care Van
project reopened the Leamington Centre this spring and hopes to open two new centres in Bradford and Simcoe and a mobile unit in the Niagara region.