Alleged attack highlights lack of protection for foreign farm workers

May 29, 2016

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun |

A worker on a south Surrey farm claims he was punched repeatedly in the head by a supervisor and then brushed off by his employer, police and the Mexican consulate when he complained.

The details of the incident, which the worker alleges took place May 6 at Canadian Farms Produce near Cloverdale, are contained in a WorkSafeBC claim filed by the worker, Otilio Hernández-Morales.

His complaint to WorkSafeBC claims he was working in the potato and carrot packing area at about 6:30 p.m. when a supervisor shouted instructions from across the room. Hernández-Morales alleges that when he approached the supervisor in order to hear him more clearly, the supervisor took hold of his neck and punched him in the head while holding a knife.

Another supervisor took the knife away, Hernández-Morales states in his claim, but the supervisor punched him in the head seven or eight more times, until he started to bleed. During the alleged attack, Hernández-Morales claims he could smell alcohol on the supervisor’s breath.

The half-dozen Mexican workers who witnessed the alleged attack were warned by a supervisor not to discuss it with anyone, the claim says.

“After cleaning the blood (off) my face, I decide to call the police and the Mexican consulate to ask for help,” Hernández-Morales wrote in his claim. Two Surrey RCMP officers arrived between 7:30 and 8 p.m., spoke to Hernández-Morales, and then left to interview the supervisor. Some time later, they returned with farm owner Randy Sihota and told Hernández-Morales there was nothing they could do because they’d concluded it was a fight between the two individuals, the claim says.

Asked if he fought back, Hernández-Morales said no. It would have been too risky, he said in an interview through a translator, because losing his job would mean the loss of legal status in Canada and his family’s only source of income.

The claims remain unproven and WorkSafeBC is investigating the incident.

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