The cause of death of two Jamaican migrant agricultural workers who died Friday, September 10 at a central Ontario farm is still under investigation.
The two victims, Paul Roache, 37-years-old, and Ralston White, 43-years-old, were working at the Filsinger Organic apple orchard and processing facility in Ayton, Ontario — about 70 kilometers south of Owen Sound.
Both men were Jamaican citizens, working in Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP).
A preliminary report indicates the two men were attempting to fix a pump for an apple cider vat when they were overcome by toxic gas. They were removed from the vat with vital signs absent. Attempts by paramedics to revive the two workers ultimately failed.
The results of an autopsy to confirm the actual cause of death has not yet been released. Provincial police and the Ontario Ministry of Labour continue their investigation into the fatalities.
“We are saddened by the deaths of Paul Roache and Ralston White, and our sincere condolences go out their families,” said Wayne Hanley, the National President of UFCW Canada, and the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA).
“Their deaths are a tragic reminder of the dangers and risks involved in the agriculture sector,” said the leader of Canada’s largest private-sector union. “Working in an enclosed space — like a silo or a vat — is known as high risk, yet Ontario continues to exempt the agriculture sector from specific regulations on enclosed spaces that apply to every other industry.”
“So certainly what happened has to be investigated, but at the same time the Ministry of Labour must also take a more proactive role — with stepped up training, inspections and increased regulations — which might have prevented the deaths of these two men.”
Jamaican migrant agriculture workers have worked each season in Canada since 1964. This season more than 6,000 Jamaican SAWP workers were employed at over 300 Canadian farms.