Just a month after the terrible Hampstead, Ontario tragedy, another highway collision involving migrant workers has claimed the lives of four Filipino migrant workers and left another seriously injured after a head-on collision on the Queen Elizabeth highway between Edmonton and Calgary. All five victims of the accident were employed as temporary foreign workers in Edmonton.
Shortly before midnight on March 4, an SUV carrying the five Filipino temporary workers was heading south when it was struck head-on by a Range Rover traveling on the wrong side of the road. According to the RCMP, the driver of the Range Rover appeared to be intoxicated. He survived the crash, was taken into custody and has now been charged, including four counts of impaired driving causing death.
The migrant workers killed in the accident included the driver of the SUV, Anthony Castillon, 35, and passengers Joey Mangonon, 35, and Josefina Velarde, 52. A fourth person, a 39-year-old woman also died, but her name has been withheld pending notification of her next of kin family in the Philippines. A fifth passenger, Josephine Tamondong, 28, survived the crash with major injuries and is recovering in an Edmonton hospital.
"On behalf of the 250,000 members of UFCW Canada, we would like to offer our condolences to the families of the victims of this tragedy," says Wayne Hanley, the national president of UFCW Canada. "The community is barely recovering from last month's tragic accident in Hampstead, Ontario that killed eleven workers, 10 of whom were migrant workers, and here we are mourning another senseless loss of four more lives."
"Again, we pose the same perennial questions: Who is going to cover with the medical bills of the survivors? Who is going to pay for the repatriation of the bodies of the deceased? Who is going to ensure that these workers are taken care of and not discarded as has happened so often in the past?"
Members of the Filipino community in Edmonton have come together to share their grief with those who knew the victims. Funeral plans are also being finalized, with remains set to be returned to the Philippines.
"We must remember that migrant workers typically do not have their families here because the federal government's Temporary Foreign Workers program does not allow them to bring their families when they come to work in Canada," says Naveen Mehta, a lawyer with UFCW Canada and the director of its Human Rights Department.
"The financial responsibility must lie squarely in the hands of the Tory regime in Ottawa and with the Alberta government to ensure that insurance companies pay out, and that the surviving worker is properly taken care of. In addition, while nothing can replace loved one, families back home in the Philippines should be compensated for the loss of an income."