Berry Bitter Harvest
By May 10, 2008 at 9:44 AM
|Indian Canadian berry pickers in farms outside Vancouver work in conditions reminiscent of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, a Canadian Tax Court judge has ruled.|
"When a 65-year-old grandmother leaves her village in India, travels nearly two days to Vancouver and is hired within a week by a labor contractor who transports her - at dawn and back at night - in a crowded van for up to eight hours a day so she can earn eight hours pay at minimum wage - or less if paid on piece rate - something is radically wrong with certain aspects of the federal family reunification program and also the berry and vegetable industry in British Columbia," Dwayne Rowe, a Tax Court of Canada judge, said in a ruling.
The judge was ruling on an appeal by 75 berry pickers, all Indians, on employment insurance benefits against S & S Harvesting Ltd., in which many workers presented graphic tales of their exploitation as new immigrants by the company. Judge Rowe said the company's owner Surjit Randhawa exercised "Svengali-like control" over his employees, who treated him as "a god-like figure who had to be obeyed."