TORONTO, Ontario October 6, 2017 — In a historic decision, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal ruled that the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) policy breached the rights of Michael Campbell, an injured migrant worker from Jamaica.
Since 2008, Campbell has undertaken a valiant fight for justice for himself and countless other injured migrant farm workers.
In a landmark decision, the Tribunal ruled that the WSIB’s way of reducing compensation to migrant workers “abrogates the requirement set out in the Act”.
It ordered the WSIB to provide Michael compensation based the type of job that is available to him in his home country, and not a job that is unavailable to him in Ontario.
“What the WSIB does is unfair. WSIB needs to change its policy now, so no one else has to go through what I went through,” says Campbell.
Campbell, a father of four, decided to come to work on an Ontario farm to improve his children’s lives. In 2008, after working for almost 10 years, putting food on the tables of Ontario families, he injured his back in an accident on a peach farm.
As a migrant worker, Campbell is tied to one employer, does not have any form of labour or social mobility and does not have permanent immigration status in Canada.
His injury has caused him to lose his livelihood and his ability to work in Ontario and he was forced to return to his home country, where he and his family fell into poverty.
The WSIB’s decision in Campbell’s case was based on its policy to end migrant workers’ compensation, as if they can live and work in Ontario — even though they cannot. The WSIB tells migrant workers, like Campbell, that they can do at least a minimum wage job in Ontario and cuts their compensation as if they were doing that job – even though that work may not available to them.
Campbell didn’t think this policy was fair, and for nine years, fought to bring his case to the Tribunal.
Last week the Tribunal agreed with him and said that the WSIB’s policy was not fair and not legal.
Campbell was represented by Maryth Yachnin and Airissa Gemma of IAVGO Community Legal Clinic, which is funded by Legal Aid Ontario (LAO), and fights for the rights of injured workers, including migrant and precarious workers.
“This decision supports protecting the rights of injured migrant workers and the Tribunal should be commended. The WSIB needs to take immediate steps to change this cruel and unlawful policy,” says Airissa Gemma, Community Legal Worker at IAVGO Community Legal Clinic.
Campbell’s case against WSIB was supported by Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW), a volunteer-based, grassroots organization, based in Ontario and BC, that promotes the rights of migrant workers, both locally and transnationally.
“Countless injured migrant farm workers and their families have become impoverished and destitute from this WSIB policy. This decision proves what many have been advocating for years and to no avail – their policy is unfair and that it has to stop,” says Chris Ramsaroop, Organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers.