Marco Luciana

Marco Luciana

Fundraiser brings cash, plea for foreign workers

The fundraiser held on Saturday for a Red Deer shooting victim raised $3,000 and a plea on behalf of the thousands of people who come from other countries to work in Alberta.

The fundraiser held on Saturday for a Red Deer shooting victim raised $3,000 and a plea on behalf of the thousands of people who come from other countries to work in Alberta.

Jaysen Arancon Reyes, 26, is still being treated in the Calgary Foothills Hospital for shotgun wounds he took to his face and hands during an armed robbery at the West Park Fas Gas, where he was working alone late on the night of Sept. 11.

Reyes had arrived from the Philippines just weeks earlier under a federal program that enables Canadian employers to hire temporary foreign workers for jobs that cannot be filled locally.

The same store was robbed again less that two weeks later and, in a separate incident, another worker from the Philippines was stabbed in the stomach during a robbery at an Okotoks Fas Gas on Sept. 22.

Parkland Fuel Corp., the Red Deer-based company that owns Fas Gas service stations and convenience stores, has already committed to reviewing its worker safety practices.

Migrante Alberta, the non-government organization that organized Saturday’s fundraiser, is asking the province to make it mandatory that people work in pairs on late and overnight shifts, spokesman Marco Luciano said during the fundraiser, held at the Hub on Saturday afternoon.

While those issues are being dealt with, Migrante Alberta says members of the public as well as the thousands of temporary workers being brought to Canada need a better understanding of the big picture. That picture includes the abuses many workers suffer because they are unaware of the protections available to them, Luciano said during a discussion held after viewing a documentary focussing on temporary foreign workers in Canada.

Montreal filmmakers Marie Boti and Malcolm Guy, supported by provincial and federal grants, created The End of Immigration? to give an overview of various aspects of the program, including interviews with employers, government officials, non-government agencies and workers.

Danilo De Leon, an Edmonton carwash worker featured in the documentary, told the gathering afterward that he and his fellow workers desperately need their stories to be heard by Canadian citizens, employers and government as well as by workers who are or who are becoming involved in the program.

Migrant workers come to Canada unprepared for the hardships and sacrifices they will make in their efforts to improve conditions for themselves and support their families at home, said De Leon.

They are charged heavy fees that are against the law, they may be paid less than local workers, and they are not told about the rights and protections available to them, he said.

Luciano compared the migration of workers to Canada from places like the Philippines to a slave trade. Workers coming to Canada are not informed of the guaranteed to them under Canadian law, he said. They are told where to send their money and given some orientation on cold weather and Canadian culture, but no one is giving them vital information that would protect them from abuse in the workplace.

Some agencies and churches are trying to fill the gaps, but there are situations in their employment where workers are not able to exercise those rights, said Luciano.

There is no mechanism that looks into the workplace to ensure that people are being properly paid and properly treated, he said.

“A lot of Canadians do not know what is going on. Meanwhile, migrants are pitted against Canadian workers, for, quote-unquote, stealing their jobs,” said Luciano.

However, in their documentary, Boti and Guy describe a situation in which a rapidly growing number of migrants are being brought from other countries, especially the Philippines, to do jobs that Canadian workers won’t take. One Red Deer employer says in the film he can’t keep local workers for more than two weeks, because they get snatched up by better offers from the oilfield.

“These migrants came here as a source of cheap labour. We want you to tell our story,” said Luciano.

Red Deer nurse Jhong de la Cruz said after the meeting that the operators of Fas Gas have been supportive of Reyes and are working on bringing his mother from the Philippines so she can be with him. She is still awaiting approval for her entry visa, said de la Cruz, who is a permanent resident awaiting his citizenship.

Parkland Fuel purchased 100 tickets for the event and a trust accounts has been set up at Scotiabank to collect donations for Reyes.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

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