A relative of a Jamaican man who died after sustaining a severe head injury while working on a farm in Canada has described the treatment of workers on agricultural work programmes as “worse than slavery”.

“It is worse than slavery – they dispose of them,” declared Monica Barrett.

Barrett, who lives in Winnipeg, made the comments during an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) programme ‘Go Public’, as she expressed the need for more protection of migrant labourers’ rights.

Her cousin, Sheldon Mckenzie, 39, passed away several months after suffering a severe head injury while at work on a tomato farm in Leamington, Ontario.

screen_shot_2016-05-16_at_2.07.08_pm“His face was completely bandaged, he was swollen. We got there, he was on life-support,” Barrett told  the CBC.

She reportedly said her cousin’s condition was so bad, doctors had to remove part of his brain due to swelling and internal bleeding.

However, rather than trying to provide him with medical care in Canada, the work programme officials tried to ‘ship’ him back to Jamaica, Barrett said, noting that he lost his work visa and was no longer qualified for health-care coverage.

“Their only goal was to ship him back home. The only way he wasn’t shipped back in three days is because we dug our heels in and said no because the health care in Jamaica is not up to par to take care of the type of injury he had,” said Barrett to the CBC.

According to the heartbroken woman, her cousin had been working on the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program for 12 years, spending months at at time in Canada doing manual labour on farms and using his money to support his wife and daughters back in Jamaica.

She was was able to secure a humanitarian visa for Mckenzie, but the help came too late as he died while waiting for a decision to be made on the visa.

According to the CBC’s news report, hundreds of seasonal workers have been sent home from Canada in similar circumstances- the practice is known as medical repatriation.


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