Community rallies to raise money for farmworker hit by car

The Niagara-on-the-Lake community is stepping up to help a farmworker who was badly injured after he was hit by a car while on his bicycle.

Ceto Reid, 51, a temporary foreign worker from Jamaica who works at P.G. Enns Farms, was struck on his bike on Oct. 6 in St. Catharines while riding back to the farm from the Laundry Tub.

“He was hit by a car on his way home from doing his laundry. And he was supposed to return home to Jamaica the next day,” said Kit Andres from Migrant Workers Alliance Niagara.

He was taken to the hospital where he had hip surgery, she said.

Kathy Brown, the manager of the Avondale convenience store in Virgil, has set up a jar for people to donate to Reid’s recovery.

And anyone wishing to donate through e-transfer can send it to Jane Andres at niagaraworkerswelcome@gmail.com.

Brown said she felt setting up a donation jar was the right thing to do.

“My family has been fortunate and I feel you have to help wherever you can,” she said in a message to The Lake Report.

After she posted about it on social media, “it became apparent people wanted to donate directly so an email was set up so they could,” she added.

Reid was out doing his laundry before going home because where he lives, there are no washers or dryers, said Kit Andres.

“At bare minimum, a worker should have access to a washing machine and dryer in their house,” she said.

Asked if Reid’s employers have been supportive since the incident, Andres said she didn’t know.

“But I know there’s been a lot of anger from workers for many years on this farm because of the lack of access to basic necessities,” she said.

No one from P.G. Enns Farms responded to calls or emails from The Lake Report.

A reporter who visited the farm on Irvine Road on Oct. 12 was asked to leave the property.

Niagara-on-the-Lake doesn’t have a laundromat, so St. Catharines is the closest location. From Reid’s bunkhouse, it’s about a 16-kilometre round-trip.

The bunkhouse where Reid lives doesn’t have a washing machine, only a washtub, said Andres.

Many farmworkers drop their laundry off at the Laundry Tub and it is then delivered to them, thanks to a wash and fold service the laundromat offers, Kit Andres said.

But since Reid was leaving for Jamaica the following day, he went to pick the laundry up himself.

Contracts under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program “specifically state that accommodations must be equipped with laundry facilities including an adequate number of washing machines, and where possible, dryers,” said a spokesperson with Employment and Social Development Canada.

In the absence of washers and dryers, employers must drive workers to a laundromat weekly at no cost to the worker, the contract says.

The 27-year-old driver of the car that hit Reid, a woman from Thorold, was charged with careless driving, Niagara police said.

Now, instead of going back home to his family, sleeping in his own bed, and eating his favourite food he will be staying in Canada for two to three months while he recovers.

Reid’s co-workers have really stepped up to help him since he was discharged from the hospital.

“Often it falls on the shoulders of their co-workers to feed them, care for them (and) come up with grocery money,” said Jane Andres.

However, his co-workers soon will be heading home.

“There’s a network of volunteers, community members, service providers, who are meeting together to come up with a support plan for when his co-workers return home and he’s there alone,” said Kit Andres.

It is great to see neighbours and community members stepping up and showing workers their support, she said.

On top of monetary donations, people from the community have been bringing him meals. Someone also donated a reclining chair to make sure he’s comfortable.

As part of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), workers leave Canada by Dec. 15.

Reid needs to apply for an extension to complete his recovery here. It’s unknown what he will do if he’s unable to stay at the bunkhouse, where he currently lives.

Though it’s great how the community is helping Reid in his recovery, Jane Andres said there needs to be a better support system in place for foreign workers.

“When Canadians get injured, they can get employment insurance (EI). (It) takes eight weeks for sick benefits, but there’s support systems in place. They have a place to live,” she said.

According to the federal government’s website, Canadians will get their first EI payment about 28 days after applying.

“But with farm workers, they don’t have the same support systems in place. I really think it’s time to change how we can support them when these life-altering events happen,” she added.

She said she’s seen this happen too many times.

“It was 2007, (that) was my first experience with somebody that got cancer up here. And you know, they just had no support systems. It was his co-workers looking after him,” said Jane Andres.

The workers don’t need that stress, she said.

Anyone interested in helping Reid can donate at the Avondale convenience store in Virgil or send an e-transfer to niagaraworkerswelcome@gmail.com.

Somer Slobodian, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report