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Hundreds Mourn Migrant Worker Deaths

Jan. 7, 2010 TORONTO - Hundreds gathered at 2757 Kipling Avenue on Thursday evening, staring at the building from which Alexander Bondorev, Aleksey Blumberg, Fayzullo Fazilov and Vladimir Korostin fell to their death on 24 December 2009. Dilshod Mamurov is still in the hospital.

Saddened and enraged community members from the neighboring buildings joined Toronto residents and unionized workers to pay their respects. In the flickering candlelight, Chris Ramsaroop and Farrah Miranda began the somber gathering.

"Our organizations, No One Is Illegal - Toronto and Justice for Migrant Workers, spend our days in communities working with people without full status that work without protections, that are exploited, that are deported, that are killed. Today is about marking all those deaths, all those injustices".

"Though there are strict regulations for most work, including swing stages, workers without full status are unable to assert these rights. These regulations were blatantly broken because employers know that there is no support for workers without full status. Status for All is the only answer” asserted Jim Nugent, an organizer with No One Is Illegal – Toronto and a construction worker for thirty years.

Labour organizations asked to give brief condolence messages to the family and friends and then laid out their platforms for various governmental inquiries.

Other Union leaders elaborated on the root cause of these deaths. “This is a matter of immigration status; those men who died falling from that building died solely because they were migrant workers,” said Naveen Mehta from UFCW Canada.

Workers without full status do the hardest, most dangerous work yet receive the least protection under existing laws. Workers asserting their rights or demanding less dangerous working conditions are rarely able to switch jobs and risk deportation for speaking out.

“Employers and recruiters pressure workers to give up rights to compensation under threat of job loss and deportation" explained Jessica Ponting, a community legal worker with the Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario who attended the memorial. "Despite these effective fear tactics, many workers get deported nonetheless, often to a life of poor healthcare, few job prospects suitable for the worker's injury, and poverty for themselves and their families."

"Today was about honoring and remembering. Tomorrow has to be about fighting back. Unionized workers and the labour movement need to take real, direct action to ensure status for all people in Canada" asserted the organizers.

Justice for Migrant Workers and No One Is Illegal-Toronto are calling on the Ministry of Labour to (1) pressure Ontario and Canada to ensure status for anyone working in the province and their families; (2) guarantee adequate compensation for injured workers; (3) implement a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy and demand that CBSA not target workers and their families and (4) immediately move to ensure access to healthcare for all workers in Ontario.

For future actions, please visit http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org and www.justicia4migrantworkers.org regularly.

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Some media coverage:

CTV - Vigil to honour dead T.O. construction workers

The Toronto Sun - Vigil held for construction workers

The Globe and Mail - GTA's migrants: Working in the dark