Mexican migrant was working in Abbotsford
Jessica Smith/For Metro Vancouver
A Mexican migrant worker holds his head in his hands yesterday at the Migrant Workers Support Centre in Abbotsford. The man claims he was attacked by the owner of a farm where he worked. He doesn’t want to be identified for fear of not being offered any more jobs.
A Mexican migrant worker claims he was pushed around and had a knife waved at him on an Abbotsford farm for not weeding to the farm owner’s expectation.
The 25-year-old worker, who doesn’t want to be named for fear that he won’t be offered any more jobs, said he hasn’t been paid and is being denied his flight home. According to his contract, the employer is responsible for getting the workers to B.C. and back.
The man is in Canada as part of the Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program (SAWP), which is a joint program between the Canadian and Mexican governments. This is the third time he has taken part in the program, but the first time he encountered trouble, the worker said.
On Saturday morning, he and two other workers from Gurmukh Vadyal Farm were “lent” to the neighbouring Kayra Farm, he said yesterday.
They were weeding a field when he missed a patch and the owner of Kayra Farm became irate and started yelling at him, he claimed.
The owner pushed him repeatedly 25 metres back to the weeds, then grabbed him by the wrist, holding a 30-centimetre knife at him, he said.
Lucy Luna, a spokeswoman for the Migrant Workers Support Centre in Abbotsford, translated for the worker.
“He says he thought his life was in danger,” she said.
Luna helped the worker contact Abbotsford Police and file a report on Monday. It includes statements from the two workers who witnessed the incident, police confirmed.
The complaint is being investigated, but it might be jeopardized if the worker does return to Mexico because police “require a willing and co-operative complainant in order to further the investigation,” said Const. Casey Vinet.
The owner of Kayra Farm could not be reached for comment.
Luna also contacted the Mexican consulate. An officer is trying to arrange the worker’s flight home and back pay he is owed, but there has been no progress over the last three days, she said.
The man has been staying in Abbotsford with a member of the Lutheran Church.
Delays and a lack of leadership are common with all levels of government Luna works with on migrant workers’ issues, she said. “They say it’s because they’re not Canadian citizens, but they are Canadian workers,” she said. “They’re not illegal, for Christ’s sake.”
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