Hampstead crash survivors share their story at Toronto symposium and launch of international "Right2Stay" campaign
Click on the image above to see the photo gallery.
Crash survivors make bid to stay in Canada
Migrant workers who survived crash that killed 11 others want to stay in Canada
Injured migrant workers want to stay
Survivors of the Hampstead Crash speak
Migrant workers who survived deadly crash want to stay in Canada
Survivors haunted by memories of crash that killed 10 migrant workers
Two migrant agriculture workers who survived a horrific crash near Hampstead, Ontario that killed 11 others in February, told their story at Toronto's Ryerson University on October 2. Javier Alba Medina and Juan Ariza Mejia were critically injured when the van they were travelling in with other Peruvian migrant workers was struck by another vehicle on February 6. Since then, the men have been recuperating at a London, Ontario facility, but neither will possibly ever fully regain their physical capacities.
Alba Medina and Ariza Mejia shared their story, and helped launch the international Right2Stay campaign with a packed room of students, educators, social justice activists, and the media at a panel discussion on migrant workers, as part of Ryerson University's 2nd Annual Social Justice Week. "We continue to fight to get better," said Alba Medina, "and we hope to bring our families here, but we will need the community's support to realize that dream."
Both Alba Medina and Ariza Mejia will be seeking to stay in Canada — to continue to receive proper medical care, and to eventually have their families join them here. If their applications are denied, they will have to return to Peru when their current visas expire.
According to Medina, the tragedy was a life-changing experience for him. “We came to this country to work and to provide for our families so that our kids can go to school… The only thing we want right now is to continue living in Canada so that we can be well and build a new life...”
For Ariza, surviving the Hampstead tragedy was the biggest battle that he has ever endured yet he took it with dignity. “I take it with strength because there are people who believed in me and who supported me in the struggle. Now more than ever, I can say that I am firm in my fight to live.”
"The fundamental question to be asked is how is Canada accountable to people who we 'import' to toil in our fields, who we often treat immensely poor, and who suffer from life altering injuries. These gentlemen came to Canada as able-bodied young men to build a better life for their families back home," said Naveen Mehta, UFCW Canada's general counsel, director of Human Rights and panellist at the Ryerson symposium.
"They were injured on our roads and may never be fully able bodied again. It is unconscionable to send them back home where, rather than supporting their families, they may become burdens. We must have a frank national dialogue as to how Canada is accountable to injuries suffered by workers brought here under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. They can't just be thrown aside like some kind of disposable commodity."
Earlier this year, Alba Medina and Ariza Mejia became the first recipients of an equal share of the Migrant Workers Family Support Fund. The fund, organized by UFCW Canada, raised over $225,000 from individuals, labour allies and community groups across Canada. The fund was distributed in equal shares to all of the 14 families of the deceased and survivors of the Hampstead tragedy.