The Okanagan Project is a collaborative effort between the Migrant Workers Centre, RAMA Okanagan and researchers from UBC Okanagan and Okanagan College to develop an effective model for providing comprehensive legal services to migrant agricultural workers in the Okanagan valley region.
The project provides support for migrant workers in three ways:
- Direct legal services: a staff lawyer and community legal worker provide direct legal services whenever possible, with an emphasis on assistance with urgent immigration applications, WorksafeBC claims, and complaints brought before the Employment Standards Branch. When staff is unable to provide direct services, the project offers summary advice and makes referrals to other community-based service providers and/or private counsel.
- Outreach and community advocacy: a Spanish-speaking outreach worker builds trusting relationships with migrant workers, screens for legal issues, helps navigate health and social services, and accompanies workers to appointments when possible.
- Public legal education, training, and support for community workers: bi-lingual (Spanish and English) fact sheets provide accessible answers to frequently asked questions; a series of webinars provide community workers with practical information and strategies they can use to improve experiences, reduce risk, and improve health outcomes for migrant workers.
The Okanagan Project has assisted migrant agricultural workers with a wide range of issues, including:
- Worksafe BC claims (work-related injury, unsafe working conditions, and prohibited action)
- Wage theft / under-payment
- Harassment by employers
- Unsanitary, overcrowded, or unsafe housing for workers
- Immigration-related applications (open work permits for vulnerable workers, work-permit extensions, permanent resident applications, refugee claims, etc.)
To request assistance from the Okanagan Project:
- Call the Migrant Workers Centre
- Spanish speakers and after-hours assistance available at 778-363-3216
- Email staff lawyer Randall Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org