TORONTO, June 22, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In a historic move, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and the Ministry of the Solicitor General have destroyed the DNA profiles that the OPP illegally obtained from 96 migrant farm workers in October 2013. At the time the OPP conducted a DNA sweep near Bayham, Ontario where 96 migrant farm workers (predominantly from Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago) were coerced into providing samples of their DNA as part of a criminal investigation.
The destruction of the profiles is part of a landmark human rights case which made headlines in August 2022 when the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) released a 64-page ruling wherein it found that the OPP had engaged in racial discrimination during its DNA sweep of migrant farm workers. DNA samples had been obtained from workers even if they had alibis or did not match the suspect description. The decision detailed how the police exploited systemic vulnerabilities experienced by participants of the the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, and utilized the workers’ employers as a means of obtaining the DNA samples.
In addition to destroying the DNA profiles, the OPP is also required to seal the investigative file containing the workers’ personal information, and is required to develop a policy around DNA sweeps to ensure that future investigations complied with Ontario’s Human Rights Code. Pursuant to the decision made in August 2022, the 54 migrant farm workers who pursued the case will each receive $7,500 in human rights damages (which collectively amounts to $405,000). The destruction of the DNA profiles is part of a global settlement of the remedies portion of the case, which had been scheduled to be heard before the HRTO last month.
Justicia 4 Migrant Workers (J4MW) was integral to advancing the case with lawyer Shane Martinez. J4MW commends the dedicated and hard fought work undertaken by the migrant farm workers to reach this resolution. This is a historic and precedent setting victory in the larger struggle against both racist and racialized policing. It also draws attention to the fact that much work remains. At the federal level J4MW reiterates our longstanding demands for: permanent status on arrival for migrant farm workers, an end to unilateral repatriations and disbarment, and equal access to entitlements such as EI and CPP. At the provincial level: ensure that all agricultural workers are provided with full protections under provincial workplace legislation including the right to healthcare, the right to unionize, end enforcement of occupational health and safety protections.
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