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Migrant farm workers finally receive compensation

Migrant farm workers finally receive compensation

It took eight years, but 54 workers finally received $7,500 each after winning a Human Rights Tribunal against the OPP.

By Andrew Joseph,; Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

It can be difficult to fight the law and win, but that is exactly what 54 migrant farm workers did, finally receiving long-due reparation.

On August 30, 2023, the migrant farm workers each received a cheque for $7,500 after winning a 2015 Human Rights Tribunal case against the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General.

In 2013, 54 migrant farm workers in Vienna, Ontario, in Elgin County, were illegally coerced by the OPP into providing DNA swabs. The police were searching for a violent sexual assault suspect.

The woman who had been sexually assaulted had told police that her attacker was a Black male who appeared to be in his mid-20s. She said that she believed the attacker was a migrant worker.

When the police went to farms to discuss the situation, the migrant farm workers said they were told to comply with the police requests for DNA, et al, or risk not having a job the following year. That threat came from the police, not the farm owners.

At that time, a total of 96 migrant farm workers had samples of their DNA taken from them via coercion. notes that the police did arrest migrant farm worker Henry Cooper in November 2013. He did plead guilty to sexual assault with a weapon, forcible confinement, and uttering death threats.

After the unnamed woman’s assault, her attacker’s DNA was found after a sexual assault examination.

Because Cooper was one of 100 migrant farm workers who refused to provide a DNA sample to police, they attempted to find a discarded sample from him, eventually pulling his DNA from a discarded cigarette and a portion of a pizza slice.

Cooper was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Only 33 of those 54 workers were present to receive their cheques. As well, the provincial government and OPP said that the DNA profiles of 96 migrant farm workers taken during this event were destroyed.

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