Letter writer Marlowe Evans is also a columnist for The News.

Letter writer Marlowe Evans is also a columnist for The News.

LETTER: Verbal attack on foreign workers disturbing

Racist and derogatory comments on social media disheartening and disappointing to Maple Ridge native

Dear Editor,

I thought we were doing so well. I really thought– wow!

Look at our community, rallying around frontline workers, thanking people who are putting their health at risk for us.

I smiled at 7 o’clock every evening. I loved the signs in windows thanking healthcare workers, thanking delivery people, thanking those working in grocery stores and restaurants.

But in reality, we are not doing as well as I had thought at supporting frontline workers: and I am disappointed.

Recently, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News published a very brief article on temporary foreign workers who’d tested positive for COVID-19.

READ MORE: Interior Health confirms five additional cases in West Kelowna COVID-19 outbreak

The article outlined how these people were immediately isolated, along with the people they’d come in contact with. The article even mentioned the large outbreaks of COVID-19 at a nursery in West Kelowna, and how the government has responded to food producers in need by gathering funding to help offset the cost of isolation for their workers.

The article was innocuous. It did a fair enough job at trying not to be inflammatory.

The point of this letter is to condemn the comments I saw on this article, on Facebook.

The number of people who I saw comment things like, “we don’t need these people anymore, Canadians can do this work,” and “how did they get in,” and “they send entire paycheques out of the country and the only thing they buy is alcohol and cause problems due to excessive drinking,” is sad.

RELATED: COVID-19: B.C. too dependent on foreign food production workers

It is so desperately sad.

How dare you?

These are people who do difficult, backbreaking work.

I have friends who’ve worked in the fields. Farms will hire local people, but they can’t retain them. Why? Because the conditions are terrible and the work is gruelling. The pay is not reflective of the difficulty of the work. Overtime is almost never paid.

Do you realize why the government had to step in with a subsidy for food producers?

It’s because these temporary foreign workers are often crammed together in bunks.

They would not be able to self-isolate.

That is one of the reasons the outbreak in Kelowna was so bad – these people work and live in very close quarters.

RELATED: Canada unveils $50M boost to help agriculture sector with 14-day COVID-19 quarantine

Canadians won’t do this work. Even if we tried, we don’t necessarily have the skills required for these jobs.

Contrary to popular belief, agricultural work is skilled work.

How many people in your immediate acquaintance could handle the conditions in which these people work? Read a few testimonies on how they’re treated. You will be shocked.

As for accusations that temporary foreign workers are some kind of alcoholics who don’t contribute to the economy – I could not imagine being so narrow-minded.

These are the very people who keep our agricultural economy running.

They’re the ones who are keeping fresh food on the shelves in the grocery stores, so that everyone can go and stock up while we self isolate.

Being able to self isolate is a privilege, and it’s one we would not have without temporary foreign agricultural workers.

To infer that these hardworking, determined people, who come to Canada to help us, and help our economy, are all alcoholics who don’t contribute – is insufferable.

The next time someone says that temporary foreign workers aren’t necessary, or that they don’t contribute, I want you to think of someone.

I want you to think about Sheldon McKenzie.

He was a temporary foreign worker in Ontario.

He was injured on the job, and instead of being given time to get medical treatment, his employer and government liaison officer tried to deport him.

As soon as he was unable to work, he lost his visa.

He was in a coma, on life support in the hospital. When he died, they were still arguing about whether or not to send him home.

There are innumerable testimonies from temporary foreign workers about the conditions in which they work.

Innumerable testimonies from people who’ve continued to work with fractured arms or other injuries, for fear of losing work.

I don’t think I can name many people in my acquaintance who are so dedicated to their job that they would continue to work that way.

I also can’t think of many professions where if you were hurt on the job and in a coma, they would try to kick you out of the country instead of making sure you were getting proper medical care.

I was so proud of Maple Ridge.

I was so proud of the way that we had rallied around frontline workers.

RELATED: Police officers blast sirens in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows to support health care workers

But I’m not convinced anymore.

If you say you stand behind frontline workers, then you stand behind them.

Are we condemning grocery store employees who’ve tested positive for COVID-19? Delivery people? Nursing home staff? Doctors?

No, of course not.

When you work on the frontlines, when your job exposes you to cramped conditions, of course you’re at risk.

That’s why we’re saluting frontline workers in the first place – because they’re putting their health and their lives at risk so that the average Canadian doesn’t have to.

When you go to the grocery store, think about the people who picked your fruit, processed your meat.

Those are jobs held pre-dominantly by temporary foreign workers.

You can’t be fearful of supply shortages in one breath, and condemn the people who prevent them in the next.

Temporary foreign workers are essential service, frontline workers.

There is no other way to look at the situation.

If we, as a community, are supporting frontline workers, then we should be supporting all of them. Not just the ones who fit conveniently in our world view.

The comments on the article were based in ignorance and racism.

I expected so much better from our community. I thought we were doing so well.

Marlowe Evans, Maple Ridge

[Editor’s Note: Maple Ridge’s Marlowe Evans is a student at the University of New Brunswick and has written a column for The News about youth issues. Here’s a link to one of her most recent columns.]

.

________________________________

• If there is more to this issue, please let us know about it. Email us at editor@mapleridgenews.com. We look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusLetter to the Editormaple ridgeracism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Howard Done and his wife were walking through the Yennadon neighbourhood of Maple Ridge, when they encountered this young buck relaxing in the grass on a vacant lot at the corner of 232nd Street and 128th Avenue. "He didn't seem to be bothered by any of the traffic, pedestrians or dogs," Done noted. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Young buck caught lounging in Yennadon

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

The employees of Maple Ridge Hyundai pose around their coat donation box. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge Hyundai dealership holds coat drive

Business aim to collect 100 coats for local Salvation Army in second year of charity initiative

Mary Robson, executive director of the Friends In Need Food Bank, is renting two additional facilities because of the COVID-19 provincial guidelines. (The News/files)
New COVID guidelines creates storage issues for Maple Ridge food bank

Must store non-perishables for two days before being able to hand it out to clients

There have been COVID-19 exposure events at three more schools. (Pixabay)
COVID-19 exposure events at three more schools

Maple Ridge schools exposed to the virus

Students at Meadowridge did fundraising over Halloween to fill shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. (Special to The News)
Meadowridge students give gifts for children abroad

Maple Ridge school filled more than 60 boxes for Operation Christmas Child

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the project site in Kitimat. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak in Kitimat

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

A woman being arrested at a Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear a mask on Nov. 22.(@Jules50278750/Twitter)
VIDEO: Woman arrested for refusing to wear mask at Kelowna Value Village

RCMP claims the woman was uncooperative with officers, striking them a number of times and screaming

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

Most Read