From insufficient access to toilets to cramped living conditions, a new report that includes testimonies from migrant farm workers in Canada paints a bleak picture of their housing conditions.
“We are living in conditions of modern-day slavery,” said one migrant worker, in one of the anonymous testimonies included in the report released by the Migrant Rights Network and Food & Farmworkers Working Group on Thursday.
“We have no indoor bathroom. We have to use a portable toilet outside or pee in a bottle. No internet or television. No dryer or washing machine… It feels worse than if we were in prison.”
The report, based on feedback from 453 workers and a survey specific to 330 of them, was assembled in response to the federal government’s proposed Mandatory Employer-Provided Accommodations.
The government began consultations last year with stakeholders to establish the bar for employer-provided accommodations for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
In addition to the testimonies, the report includes surveys and photographs, demands for change for workers, and calls for “dignified” housing for all. It didn’t name either the companies that hired the workers or where in the country they were located.
The impetus for the report stems from concerns over the treatment of temporary foreign workers during the pandemic. Thousands of them contracted COVID-19 in 2020, with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit repeatedly pointing to congregate living as a big factor in its spread.
One testimony in the report describes up to 60 people sharing one living space, with a bathroom and kitchen.
However, the report says, about 44 percent of the time, five to 10 people shared one house.
The report also says nearly half of all respondents pointed to space as a key priority. Many would like space to have time alone, more space to store their personal belongings and separate change rooms.
Another testimony noted, “We’re not asking for luxuries in the house, but merely a decent space where we can have an eight-month work stay with respect and dignity.”
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