Migrant workers who survived deadly crash want to stay in Canada
Two migrant workers from Peru who survived a crash that killed 11 of their co-workers want to remain in Canada.
Juan Ariza and Javier Abelardo Alba-Medina were the lone survivors of a horrific crash in Hampstead, Ont., that killed 10 migrant workers and the driver of the van on Feb. 6.
According to police, the van drove through a stop sign and smashed into a truck. The accident is one of Ontario’s deadliest collisions.
The survivors told reporters through a translator on Tuesday that they are currently being treated for their injuries and worry about what will happen once their visas run out, especially if their injuries prevent them from working.
"It worries me a lot," Ariza said in Spanish. "In the state that we find ourselves in, we would be a burden to our families, our country.”
Ariza’s visa expires in February 2013.
Alba-Medina said federal officials have not contacted them regarding their immigration status, but advocacy groups are helping them to navigate the system.
He said his visa won’t expire until February 2014, but the idea of leaving Canada saddens him.
"We've fought so hard to overcome all these struggles and then to go back to our country only to have all the little opportunities we've worked so hard to accomplish through rehabilitation taken away from us because of the circumstances surrounding injured workers like us back home," he said through the interpreter.
“We came to this country in order to work and provide for our families so that our kids could attend a university as beautiful as Ryerson is,” he said.
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board has been covering the pair’s healthcare costs through Ontario’s health insurance.
CTV Toronto’s Austin Delaney reports the two earn about 85 per cent of their income while they recuperate.
But workers’ rights advocates warn that it’s not unusual for those benefits to be suspended once workers are sent back to their homelands, even though injuries may prevent them from working.
Chris Ramsaroop of the advocacy group Justicia for Migrant Workers said many workers who come to Canada via the federal Temporary Foreign Workers program are returned to their homelands, only receiving a minimum level of care before they leave.
The group is pushing for increased protections for the thousands of migrant workers who are brought to Canada through the program each year.
According to figures from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, more than 110,000 workers have come to the country through the program so far this year.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Austin Delaney and files from The Canadian Press