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Indo-Canadian Farmworkers Who Died Tragically Remembered At Vigil

Thirteen years ago, three women—Armajit Kaur Bal, 52, Sukhvinder Kaur Punia, 46, and Sarbjit Kaur Sidhu, 31—tragically lost their lives when a fifteen passenger van carrying seventeen farmworkers skidded out of control on the Trans-Canada Highway near Abbotsford, BC.

ABBOTSFORD – A vigil to commemorate Indo-Canadian farmworkers who died tragically was held last Saturday, March 7.

To put a spotlight on worker safety in agricultural sector, families, community organizations, unions, and political representatives gathered to commemorate the tragic van crash that killed three Indo-Canadian farmworkers in 2007.

Thirteen years ago, three women—Armajit Kaur Bal, 52, Sukhvinder Kaur Punia, 46, and Sarbjit Kaur Sidhu, 31—tragically lost their lives when a fifteen passenger van carrying seventeen farmworkers skidded out of control on the Trans-Canada Highway near Abbotsford, BC.

“This vigil commemorates the women who lost their lives and honours the thousands of farmworkers that work under difficult conditions every day—planting, nurturing, harvesting and processing the food that sustains our communities and economy,” said Laird Cronk, President of the BC Federation of Labour (BCFED). Multiple investigations revealed the employer was at fault for this tragedy.

Agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries to work in, with farmworkers among the most exploited and vulnerable workers in the Province. The BCFED is pushing government for a suite of changes to ensure safer transportation of farmworkers including more vehicle inspections and better enforcement to hold employers accountable. The BCFED is also fighting to extend minimum wage protections to farmworkers who currently work under the unfair piece-rate regime.

“Concrete action is needed now to improve the working conditions for farmworkers and to hold negligent employers accountable when they put farmworkers in harm’s way” added Cronk. “This is the legacy that we owe to the families of three women who lost their lives.”

In the decade from 2008 to 2018, twenty-three farmworkers have died on the job in BC.

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