Dear Mr. Patterson,
It brings me great sadness to be writing this letter to you today.
I feel frustrated with the way you are deciding to engage with what happened to your daughter. As a woman, who has experienced first-hand having lewd remarks made at me about my body, I feel the way you are responding is fundamentally wrong. I think you need to take into consideration the divide that happens with workers in your community and what you seem to identify as the community. Jamaican workers are community members who contribute to your community and your economy in positive ways.
One interaction does not justify lumping a group of people together or responding to them in a negative way. I have had sexual comments/advances made to me from people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures and none of these interactions has led me to believe that any of these groups are ‘a problem’. I think sometimes it is harder to see these things within our own cultural context, but I would like to remind you that sexual harassment is perpetrated by white men in Canada on a regular basis and that Jamaican workers are not solely perpetrators of these behaviors.
Tackling sexual assault and violence should not be something directed at one specific group of men. All men need to learn and take this work on within their own cultural contexts. I would challenge you to begin addressing sexism within your community (not toward anyone in particular) and on a second count challenge the racism inherent in these comments, perceptions and responses. Many workers have very little rights and I also challenge you to listen to workers voices and allow those voices to infuse all of these conversations. If anyone is being affected they should be able to engage in dialogue about how these things affect them. Instead of pushing these people away from your community and perpetuating hatred, I encourage you to involve them in your community and these conversations.
Please consider these challenges.
Dear Mr. Mayor;
Folks have been cc’ing us the letters they are writing to the mayor of Leaminton: keep them coming!
To John Paterson,
I have read an article recently on CBC news website concerning some comments made by you and fellow city staff. The comments continue a long legacy of racist xenophobic behaviour exemplified by Canadians towards folks who have come here seeking work.
In no way do I want to excuse, condone, pardon, or explain away any form of sexual harassment or abusive behaviours. In fact, my concern over the racist remarks come from the same place of frustration over people facing sexual harassment on the streets of Leamington.
Perhaps, in your concern over the attack on your family and constituents, the city of Leamington could offer anti-sexist, and anti-racist workshops, teach-ins and educate members of the town, and those who are invited to work there.
Include an pro feminist, pro migrant float in the next Tomato Festival Parade? Ask workers from the farms to come participate in civic events. Hold socials and dances for everyone to meet and get to know each other in a positive community atmosphere. Use the Leamington Tomato Festival pageant to bring up new ways the community can support each
other in the fight against racist and sexual harassment in the city.
Please use this time to reflect, and I encourage you to make that difference in the community. Drop the racism, and work towards a world where folks are treated with respect and care, no matter their race or gender.
Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW)
c/o Workers Action Centre
720 Spadina Avenue, Suite 223
Toronto, ON M5S 2T9
Mayor John Paterson
111 Erie St. North
Open Letter to the Mayor of Leamington John Paterson over recent comments pertaining to migrant workers
Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) is a non-profit political collective that advocates for the rights of migrant workers in Canada. J4MW has been actively engaging migrant workers in the Leamington area for over a decade. During this time, we have met thousands of migrant workers in this community.
Over the past decade we have followed with great interest the wider community’s response to migrant workers. Unfortunately, your recent remarks come as no surprise to members of our collective. In the past several years, the open hostility that your council has shown towards migrant workers represents the most blatant displays of anti-migrant sentiments we have ever witnessed. Recent comments in the media, have disparaged the use of public library facilities by migrant workers; made allegations that there are too many migrant workers ‘loitering’ downtown; and criticized the presence of too many ‘ethnic’ businesses serving the migrant worker community. In each instance ‘cultural differences’ have been used to justify the wider community’s adverse reaction to the presence of large groups of migrant workers in visible local spaces. To pass off this tension as a matter of difference based on one’s place of origin is disingenuous at best. It alludes to there being an equal and level playing field between migrant workers and Canadians. This completely masks the fact that all migrant workers in your community are:
(2) Bound to their employers
(3) Denied social and labour mobility
(4) Denied the ability of permanent residency
(5) Are separated from their families for significant portions of time
(6) Cannot exercise social and democratic participation in the processes that you represent.
Your analysis does not acknowledge the power imbalance in your community. You and your council are free to condemn and stigmatize migrant workers without any real and significant response from workers themselves; a population who have lived and worked in Leamington for fifty years, but continue to be considered temporary.
Your recent remarks pertaining to “lewd behaviour” of migrant workers cannot be taken in good faith. Instead of dealing with sexual harassment on an individual basis, you skip right to racialized stereotypes; drawing from some of the worst parts of Canadian history. It does not escape us that the community of Leamington once supported ‘sundown laws’ which made it illegal for Black Canadians to walk freely in the community after sunset.
It is apparent that your council would rather have migrant workers ‘out of sight and out of mind’; segregated from the white citizens of your community as much as possible. This de facto separation of migrants only reinforces the negative reputation that your community is earning under your leadership.
Recently, human rights violations were substantiated by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) in the form of anti-black racism and widespread attention has been paid to another ongoing case involving an employer who allegedly sexual harassed racialized migrant women. As Leamington has one of the largest population of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) in Canada these important cases directly impact workers in your community - yet your office took no public stance to acknowledge them. You and your council have been absent in discussions on racial profiling of the Asian population of Leamington where officers under your direction as Chair of the Police Services Board have acted as de facto Border Officials towards Asian residents of your community.
Your office has been negligent in improving road infrastructure that would ensure safe transport and greater road safety for migrant workers. Neither your council nor the municipality has grappled with the dangerous modes of transportation that migrant workers must endure.
Performing such simple tasks as phoning home, buying groceries or sending money home become feats of life and death.
Migrant workers have continued to complain that they are victims of hate crimes and, that racism and sexism continues to be part of the daily experiences while working and living in Leamington. They are constantly excluded from all discussions related to their social welfare. The question returns to you: what steps are you taking in your elected capacity to advocate for the rights of migrant workers? What resources will you put forth towards anti-racism programming, training and education for the Canadian community about the experiences of migrant workers? How are resources from the City of Leamington being allocated towards programming concerning violence against women and is this programming culturally and racially sensitive? Are your services accessible and inclusive of the migrant community of Leamington?
We express our bewilderment and dismay that after almost 50 years of working and living amongst the community, the general population of Leamington, the issues of migrant workers remain invisible. Simultaneously the only visible spaces of the downtown core where workers can come together are now threatened through the implementation of racially motivated loitering laws, that if passed will reinforce both their legal and social exclusion.
Yes, a dialogue is needed in Leamington about migrant workers, but the dialogue that you are proposing is skewed towards an outcome that will only perpetuate the racial divisions that exist. One cannot have a dialogue when the population most impacted is left out of the conversation. Furthermore migrant workers must be seen as members of the community something it seems that you refuse to accept. There is a consistent line of argument that migrant workers should be the sole responsibility of employers and that employers should be financially responsible for any form of municipal services rendered to migrants. This argument reflects a deep seated level of paternalism and racism through implying that non-citizens should have no access to municipal services and if they do private interests should be paying the costs. Despite social and legal exclusions, migrant workers are the economic engine of Leamington and Ontario through both their labour and through their contributions to the local economy. Contributions that have come through the sacrifices that migrant workers have made to put food on the table for their families as well as ours
We can assume that the public outcry towards your recent remarks has not changed your resolve to leave unaddressed the underlying divisions that lay at the heart of the day to day realities of migrant workers. Without significant investments towards anti-racism programming, inclusive municipal services and programs that foster a genuine sense of community for all, the ongoing tensions will continue.
For our part, we will continue to educate the broader public about the true conditions that racialized migrant workers face in Leamington. We will engage and develop educational programming to ensure that migrant workers can advocate for an end to the exclusive framework that governs their lived realities in Leamington. Finally, if steps are taken to further deny civic participation of migrant workers from public spaces we will invest whatever resources needed to counter any racially motivated legislation that you and your council invoke for your own political gain. In spite of how you perceive the migrant community, migrant workers will continue to demand to be treated as equals. They will march, they will organize, and they will continue to rupture the invisibility so their voices, dreams and aspirations are heard. They will disrupt and resist the stereotypes, assumptions and beliefs that you and your colleagues may assign towards them. Their silence will be broken and their voices will be heard.
(Exclusive to Justicia for Migrant Workers…)
The Rios Montt case and my reply to a friend:
Hi Evelyn: how you been? How is everything at work, teaching your classes? I Hope everything is well with you.
Evelyn, you ask me how I’m feeling. Thank you for your question, because it made me think about the accumulation of feelings I have. I’m telling you, last Friday, May 10, which is Mothers’ Day in Guatemala, when I heard the final verdict in the trial for genocide against the ex-President de facto Efraín Ríos Montt of Guatemala, when the Judge pronounced the sentence of genocide and sent him to prison for 80 years, there came to my mind a world of memories. It was a mixture of emotions that even now are difficult to explain, which somehow still leave me with a feeling of uncertainty: satisfaction, vindication, sadness, justification, hope? I’m not sure, but I know it’s not happiness.
Memories of high-school friends came to mind, who, being almost children, were kidnapped and assassinated, friends and comrades from work and struggle who disappeared, and until now we still do not know where their remains lie after having been “detained” by the “security” forces of the Guatemalan state. I thought of the 520 years since the invasion by blood-thirsty Spanish colonialists. The entire history of racism, exclusion, massacres; the 200,000 dead and 45,000 detained and disappeared in the so-called “internal armed conflict”, the men, women, old folk, and children who did not have the slightest opportunity to defend themselves against the brutal oppression of the military, who had nothing to defend themselves with, not even the slightest possibility of doing so. I remembered our forced flight into exile to save ourselves, and all the relatives who had to remain behind in Guatemala.
The feelings I had, penetrating my whole being, when the courageous Judge Jazmín Barrios read the charges of crimes against humanity and genocide, something which always had to remain hidden, are now recognized by the Court. Hearing the sentence imposed on Ríos Montt, 80 years in prison, incommutable, for someone who had felt he was all-powerful, who acted with such evil. The feeling was indescribable. It will remain with me for the rest of my life. The feelings are contradictory, because I also feel that this has become a very distinguished episode in the history of humanity, in the conscience of humanity, which vindicates all those who were affected. Whatever happens later (because Justice in Guatemala is very weak and it’s possible that Ríos Montt might manage to avoid prison), it is important. It’s important because the truth was pronounced in the Court, the Ixil people were heard, especially those women who painfully testified about the crimes committed against them. And he, who was a powerful dictator, had the opportunity he denied to many, to be heard, judged and sentenced.
With this judgement, I also felt that the racist, patriarchal system of oligarchy which excludes and exploits, the history of despoliation and marginalization of the great majority of indigenous, ladino and mestizo people of the country, was being judged. I felt that a sentence was being pronounced against this worn-out, inhumane model of imposition which prevents development, implemented by force in Guatemala, through fire and blood by the settler families, by armed forces who persecuted their own people, through decisions by illegitimate and corrupt governments, nationally and internationally, with the complicity of transnational corporations. This shameful system has to be changed, transformed or eliminated, sooner or later, we don’t know, but justice gives us hope for the future.
I feel that a sentence has also been passed on the indifference of many people, on the consciousness of a part of the Guatemalan people and of the international community, who with their silence, racism and indifference have also been accomplices in this holocaust, because he who knows that a crime has been committed and does not report it is an accomplice by law. I feel a great satisfaction that since Friday, May 10, 2013, the ex-General, who felt and was treated by some as almost a god, arrogant and pretentious, the untouchable José Efraín Ríos Montt, is prisoner no. 19 in the Matamoros penitentiary, convicted of the crime of Genocide.
I also feel somewhat hopeful, because the State of Law in Guatemala has become stronger, because we have managed to deepen the democracy which until now has been limited to proceedings, because the institutions charged with implementing true justice are now beginning to function for the benefit of all, because if we can manage to ensure this minimal degree of governability then our beloved people will be able to enjoy a better life. I understand that this will not resolve all the structural problems of my yearning, beloved country; I’m aware of the limitations, I know that many more struggles remain; however, this sentence is a small, but at the same time, gigantic step. A paradox, no?
I feel that the memory and struggles of many heroes, known and unknown, were vindicated on Friday, May 10, 2013, because a truth was recognized that has been denied for a long time, and because by carrying out justice we can begin to live in peace, to recognize the truth and envision the possibility that the assassins of the people can be brought to justice. To paraphrase Gandhi, we can say that “there is no road to peace, peace is the road.”
Although very far from Guatemala, I have this feeling that only comes from the dignity of all those men, women and institutions who valiantly and proudly endured with stoicism the lies, calumnies, manipulation, threats, intimidation, and physical attacks in their struggle to achieve justice in Guatemala. I feel pain and yearning for all those who were assassinated in these struggles. I feel that now all those buried in clandestine cemeteries can begin to close their eyes in peace.
“They will steal our fruits,
they will cut our branches,
they will burn our trunk,
but they will never be able to kill our roots!” –
In any case, Evenly, many emotions and feelings, but I feel well, and many thanks for asking, it has helped me to reflect.
Toronto, May 14, 2013—Translated by David Kettle
Le pregunte a Julio Ceren:
Hola Evelyn: cómo has estado? Como va todo tu trabajo, tus clases? Esperamos que todo muy bien.
Evelyn me preguntas como me siento, te agradezco por la pregunta porque me permite reflexionar sobre el cúmulo de sensaciones que tengo. Te cuento: el viernes 10 de Mayo pasado, el Día de la Madre en Guatemala, cuando escuche el veredicto final sobre el juicio por genocidio contra el ex presidente de facto Efraín Ríos Montt en Guatemala, cuando la Juez pronunció la sentencia sobre que hubo genocidio, lo mandó a prisión por 80 años, vinieron a mi mente un mundo de recuerdos, fue una mezcla de emociones que hasta este momento son difíciles de explicar y que de alguna manera no me dejan tener una certeza sobre lo que siento: satisfacción, reivindicación, tristeza, dignificación, esperanza? No sé, de lo que si estoy seguro es que no es alegría.
Vinieron a mi mente mis compañeros y compañeras de educación básica (High School) que siendo casi niños fueron secuestrados y asesinados, mis amigos y amigas, compañeros de trabajo y lucha que fueron desaparecidos y, hasta hoy, no sabemos en dónde se encuentran sus restos después de haber sido “detenidos” por la “seguridad” del Estado guatemalteco. Vienen a mi mente los 520 años transcurridos desde la invasión de los sangrientos colonizadores españoles. Toda la historia de racismo, de exclusión, de masacres; las 200,000 muertes y los 45,000 detenidos desaparecidos del mal llamado “conflicto armado interno”, los hombres mujeres, ancianas, los niños y niñas que no tuvieron ni la más mínima oportunidad de defenderse de la brutal agresión de los militares, no tenían nada para defenderse, ni la más mínima posibilidad de hacerlo. Me recordé de nuestro exilio obligado, para salvar la vida y toda la familia que tuvo que quedarse en Guatemala.
La emoción que fui sintiendo y penetrando todo mi ser, cuando la valiente Juez Jazmín Barrios leyó los cargos por crímenes de lesa humanidad y genocidio, algo que siempre han tratado de ocultar, ahora está reconocido por un Tribunal. El escuchar que sumadas las condenas que le impusieron a Ríos Montt son 80 años de cárcel, inconmutables, a alguien que se sentía todo poderoso y actuó con tanta maldad; esa parte, solamente esa parte es indescriptible. Quedará grabada en mí por el resto de mi vida. Los sentimientos son contradictorios, porque también siento que esa parte ya ha quedado grabada en una parte muy digna de la historia de la humanidad, en la conciencia de la humanidad, y que reivindica a todas las personas afectadas. No importa que suceda después, porque la Justicia en Guatemala es muy débil y posiblemente Ríos Montt logre su salida de la cárcel en algún tiempo, pero eso no es lo importante. Lo importante es que la verdad fue pronunciada en el Tribunal, que el pueblo Ixil pudo ser escuchado, especialmente las mujeres que con gran dolor narraron los ultrajes que recibieron. También que él, que fue un dictador con mucho poder, tuvo la oportunidad que le negó a muchas personas y pudo ser escuchado, juzgado y sentenciado.
Con esa sentencia sentí que también se juzgó al sistema oligárquico, excluyente, explotador, racista y patriarcal; a la historia de despojo y marginación de las grandes mayorías indígenas, ladinas y mestizas del país. Sentí que se juzgó y sentenció ese modelo de imposición que imposibilita el desarrollo, caduco e inhumano, implementado en Guatemala a fuerza, fuego y sangre por las familias criollas, por una fuerzas armadas que persiguieron a su propio pueblo, por decisión de gobiernos ilegítimos y corruptos, nacionales e internacionales, con la complicidad de las corporaciones transnacionales. Ese modelo de oprobio tiene que ser modificado, transformado o erradicado, hoy o mañana, no sabemos, pero el juicio nos da esperanza en el futuro
Sentí que se juzgó y sentenció la indiferencia de mucha gente, la conciencia de una parte del pueblo de Guatemala y de la comunidad internacional que con su silencio, racismo y desinterés, han sido también cómplices de ese holocausto, porque, el que sabe que se cometió un crimen y no lo denuncia, es cómplice por ley. Siento una gran satisfacción que desde el viernes 10 de Mayo del 2013, el ex general, el que se sentía y que algunas personas trataban como un semi Dios, arrogante y pretensioso, el intocable José Efraín Ríos Montt es el REO # 19 del presidio de Matamoros convicto por GENOCIDIO.
Siento también un pequeño aliento de esperanza, porque el Estado de Derecho guatemalteco se fortalezca, porque logremos profundizar una democracia que ahora se limita a procedimientos, que las instituciones encargadas de brindar justicia en verdad empiecen a funcionar para todos y todas, porque si se logra asegurar esa mínima gobernabilidad nuestro querido pueblo podrá vivir mejor. Entiendo que con esto no se resolverán todos los problemas estructurales de mi añorado y querido país, tengo claras las limitaciones, para eso faltan muchas luchas más; sé que esta sentencia es un paso pequeño, pero gigante a la misma vez, ¿paradójico verdad?
Sentí que la memoria y luchas de muchos héroes y heroínas, conocidas o anónimas, fueron reivindicadas el viernes 10 de Mayo del 2013, porque se reconoció una verdad negada por mucho tiempo y se pudo hacer justicia y cuando se logra la justicia, entonces sí podemos empezar a vivir en paz, conociendo la verdad y vislumbrando la posibilidad de que los asesinos del pueblo sean juzgados. Parafraseando a Ghandi afirmamos que “no hay camino para la paz, la paz es el camino”.
Sentí, aun estando muy lejos de Guatemala, esa sensación que únicamente da la dignidad, de todas esas mujeres, hombres e instituciones que valiente y orgullosamente han aguantado estoicamente las mentiras, calumnias, manipulaciones, amenazas, intimidaciones, ataques físicos, por su lucha por lograr justicia en Guatemala. Sentí dolor y añoranza por todas las personas que fueron asesinadas en esas luchas. Hoy siento que los ojos de los y las enterradas en las cientos de fosas clandestinas empezaron a cerrarse en paz.
¡¡¡Arrancaron nuestros frutos,
Cortaron nuestras ramas,
Quemaron nuestro tronco,
Pero no pudieron matar nuestras raíces!!!!
En todo caso Evelyn, muchas emociones y sentimientos, pero me siento bien y mil gracias por preguntar, me ayudaste a reflexionar.
Grande el abrazo,
Julio Ceren-Canadá 14 de Mayo de 2013
****Julio Ceren: Activista, Promotor Cultural y Trabajador Comunitario , estudió en el George Brown College en Toronto. Llegó a Canadá como refugiado político desde su país natal Guatemala en 1992. Co-fundador y facilitador de la Coalición Todos por Guatemala (red de solidaridad con Guatemala en Canada); Co-fundador de Casa Maíz y Director Ejecutivo por siete años (Centro Cultural Latinoamericano en Toronto) Es también Co-Fundador del Foro Nuesta América - Canadá (Espacio anual de encuentro y análisis de la comunidad latinoamericana en Canada) Co-Fundador de La Fiesta Cultural (Organización sin fines de lucro que promueve y facilita eventos culturales latinoamericanos en Ontario, Canadá). Ha sido el Coordinador de la Red Comunitaria Guatemalteca (GCN) por los últimos 15 años organizando un sin numero de eventos culturales, giras de activistas guatemaltecos y canadienses a Canadá y Guatemala, recaudación de fondos en apoyo a las víctimas de desastres naturales en latinoamerica y campañas internacionales en apoyo a los Derechos Humanos. Consultor Comunitario para un gran número de organizaciones latinoamericanas en Toronto. Este trabajo ha sido todo voluntario.
Historic Rights Tribunal to Examine Workplace Deaths of Temporary Foreign Workers.
For immediate release
Who: Family of Ned Livingston Peart, Migrant Workers, Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) and community allies
What: Hearing at the Human Rights Tribunal regarding the death of migrant worker Ned Livingston Peart
Where: Ontario Human Rights Tribunal 655 Bay at Elm. St (between Dundas St. and Gerrard St) 14th Floor
When: April 17th, 18th, 24th, 25th and 26th; 9:00-5:00pm
TORONTO- April 17th is the first day of an historic hearing at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. The tribunal will examine evidence regarding the workplace death of Jamaican migrant worker Ned Livingston Peart. Mr. Peart was crushed to death while working on a tobacco farm near Brantford, Ontario on August 22, 2002. Mr. Peart was one of over 30,000 migrant workers that toil under the auspices of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, a government program that brings farm workers from Mexico and the Caribbean to farms across Canada.
The Peart family sought to have a coroner’s inquest held into the death because their communications with Mr. Peart led them to have concerns over dangerous working conditions on the farm. The Office of Chief Coroner denied the request. Working with Justicia for Migrant Workers’ organizers, the family then brought a complaint to the Human Rights Commission in the summer of 2005 claiming that the Coroners Act, which provides mandatory inquests for certain types of workers while excluding others, violates the Ontario Human Rights Code by causing adverse impacts not only on Mr. Peart but all migrant farm workers in Ontario.
This case is of historical importance because it seeks to ensure a safer working environment for all migrant workers in the province by requesting an inquest into Mr. Peart’s death as well as wider systemic reforms in how the Office of Chief Coroner investigates the death of migrant agricultural workers. There has never been a coroner’s inquest into the death of a migrant worker.
"For over ten years, the Peart family has sought answers into the death of Ned. Ned was a brother, father, son and community leader. His death devastated a community. It is our responsibility to implement changes so occupational deaths like Mr. Peart never happen again,” says Tzazna Miranda Leal, organizer with Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW).
Miranda Leal continues “Whether it was the accident that claimed the lives of two migrant workers near Ayton, Ontario or the accident near Hampstead Ontario, migrant workers continue to be employed under dangerous conditions. As temporary foreign worker programs expand, it is imperative that steps are taken to protect precarious communities such as migrant workers.”
For More Information please contact:
Tzazna Miranda Leal at firstname.lastname@example.org or 647 618 5325
Chris Ramsaroop at email@example.com or 647 834 4932