Richmond rally planned to push for foreign workers' rights

A rally next Saturday is being organized in Richmond to highlight human rights issues and COVID-19-related concerns among foreign farm and other temporary workers.

After seeing marches were being organized in Toronto and Montreal for July 4, Richmond resident Karina Reid decided to organize locally, and she chose Steveston-Richmond East MP Kenny Chiu’s office as the location.

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Reid wants Richmond residents to think about where their food comes from and who is doing the hard work to bring it to markets, and to ask questions about whether the foreign workers doing the manual labour to harvest the food are being treated well. This, she added, should apply to other items, for example, clothing.

“Make conscious decisions in everything you do, because it has a ripple effect,” Reid said.

When buying food, Reid suggests people should inquire whether farmers have migrant workers and what their living conditions are.

“It’s important for all of us to ask questions and hold everyone accountable because it becomes (then) we become part of the solution collectively and not just, oh, it’s someone else’s problem,” Reid said.

With the world-wide pandemic, Reid said foreign workers should also feel safe in their working and living conditions.

The rallies are under the auspices of the Migrant Rights Network, an alliance of groups based in Toronto that advocates for refugees and migrants.

Reid pointed out Chiu belongs to the parliamentary Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, and she hopes he will use his position to push for better rights for foreign workers, both legal and undocumented.

So far this year, 4,348 workers have come to B.C. from Mexico through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, and the Mexican consulate in B.C. expects that number to climb to 6,000 by season’s end.

That’s about the same number as in 2019 and represents the largest single nationality of temporary foreign agricultural workers in the province. 

- with files from Tri-City News

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