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Jul. 2, 2020 | Thursday
Editorials and Opinions
Letter: We all can do more to help migrant workers
Letter

Dear editor:

I live in NOTL and I am incensed by the comments made by Erwin Wiens as an elected official when he speaks of recent issues with foreign workers, ("Report accuses farmers of exploiting migrant workers," June 11). 

He wonders why the workers are not pointing out by name the farm owners who are mistreating them and he continues by saying that nothing can be done unless the workers name names.

It is disingenuous on his part to share such comments. He has been living in this community for a long time and he knows as well as many of us know what the living conditions are at each farm. He also knows the individual owners and he has a good sense of how each owner may treat or mistreat their workers. 

We, as community residents, can see the trailers, many looking more like barracks belonging to a Third World country ghetto than representing a living reality for hundreds of workers here in our community. 

We see their long working hours well into Saturdays and Sundays. We can see that when foreign workers come into a supermarket during the day they must rush in and out in order to not waste time over lunch. 

We would not reserve some of the observed living conditions for these workers to our own pets, let alone a human being. 

Surely Mr. Wiens knows how packed some quarters are, how many people have to share one single bathroom, how hot and unclean some quarters must be.  And if he doesn't know, as an elected official he should know.

Enough is enough. Foreign workers working under unsanitary and inhumane living conditions is as racist as any other form of discrimination. It needs to stop.

Farm owners must comply with the law and they must be held accountable. If they cannot provide the acceptable standards of living and working they should not operate. Full stop.

There should be prefab accommodations for these workers that enable them to have a small bedroom. There should be enough bathrooms for workers so as not to create an unsanitary condition. 

Eating and living spaces should be large enough so that they could all have humble yet adequate living conditions.

This is the very minimum we should offer to foreign workers we need and rely on year after year.

I am here to say to Mr. Wiens that his words appall me and I am not at all confident in his ability to well represent me and all the interests of this great community. 

We all want to see foreign workers treated as dignified human beings. Without them we would not be able to enjoy our great food and wine.  

And to Mr. Wiens this is my message: "What you should have said is that you know some farm owners are not conducting themselves well and that you will seek opportunities to begin a dialogue with them in an effort to see living and working improvements for all foreign workers." 

As an elected official he should be a change agent for the better and not a passive bystander. 

I don't want to see this subtle yet destructive form of racism being carried out year after year under my eyes. And if it does not I will stop buying products produced in the Niagara Region. 

I invite all other fellow residents to consider this plight which has been taking place in our community. We can each make a difference by placing pressure where pressure is due.

Do your part and let's work together in making Niagara-on-the-Lake not only a pretty town, but a humane town in which all lives equally matter.  

Lydia Madonia

Virgil

 

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