November 15, 2016
“Illegal” and “clandestine” workers a misnomer for the 14-labour trafficked Guatemalan migrants.
The Immigrant Workers Centre (IWC) today slammed what it calls the “mislabeling” of victims of labour trafficking. The centre is referring to various media reporting of 14 workers from Guatemala who were defrauded by a temporary placement agency, Les progrès Inc., then later rounded up and detained by a joint task force of CBSA, RCMP and SQ officers.
“These workers were exploited from the get go,” says Viviana Medina Velazquez, a community organizer for the IWC. “Many of them owe money to recruiters in their country, then they come here to work and have no choice but to bare slave-like conditions to pay off debts and feed their families back home.”
This is precisely the story of one of the 14 arrested and detained workers, Juan Godoy Enríquez who got into debt to pay a recruiter in his home town to ensure he gets employment in Canada. While working in a farm in the Eastern Townships, Juan was promised by Les progrès Inc. that they can secure him a work permit, better work conditions and salary.
“My son is getting treatment for a severe head injury back in Guatemala and along with my debts I needed to make sure I can continue to earn an income to send money back home,” explains Enriquez. “The agency held onto our documents, we signed contracts and they promised everything was legal so I started to work for them not understanding the extent of the situation. What’s a desperate father to do?”
The centre has sent a letter to the CNESST to denounce the labour practices of the agency and several of the workers’ former employers. “What is important right now is for the workers to seek justice as victims of exploitations,” says Mukala Kaseka, a board member at the IWC. “Both federal and provincial governments have to pay attention to this mess caused by faulty policies that are inept in protecting rights and tend to punish the victims. We can’t continue with this system of exploitation.”
Noe Arteaga (438) 878- 5416
Joey Calugay (514) 947-3662