Migrant farm worker launches discrimination complaint against WSIB

March 21, 2016
Article Source
Toronto Star

A Jamaican farm hand who was rushed to a Hamilton hospital in life-threatening condition after hurting himself on the job has filed a human rights complaint against Ontario's workplace compensation board, alleging "systemic" discrimination against migrant workers.

The claim, to be submitted Monday at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, says WSIB failed to ensure Robert Sulph, 51, would have proper access to care when he returned to Jamaica after he sliced his neck open while working on a London-area tobacco farm — even though he was entitled to full and fair compensation for his injuries under provincial law.

According to the complaint, Sulph — who had worked seasonally in Canada for almost 24 years — had to give up seeking treatment because he could no longer afford the cost. Despite almost dying, Sulph was cut off WSIB benefits after 12 weeks, and the board refused to pay his medical expenses upfront — making it near-impossible for the low-wage farmer to access care, the claim says.

"The WSIB's treatment made me feel that I am not an equal member of society who deserves to be invested in or treated with dignity and respect. And I know I am not alone," Sulph said in his complaint.

The worker's compensation board has 35 days to file a response.

"When workers get injured there's this idea that they're disposable and they can be discarded because they're in Canada temporarily," said community legal worker Jessica Ponting, of Industrial Accident Victims Group, a Toronto legal clinic for injured workers.

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