‘I just need a chance to live again’: Jamaican migrant worker with cancer begs to stay in N.S.


A seasonal farm worker from Jamaica is preventing to stay in Nova Scotia for cancer therapy, saying it will be a dying sentence for her to go house.

Kerian Burnett, 42, was employed by a Colchester County farm by way of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) in April. She picked strawberries for about two months earlier than she started experiencing extreme ache. By June, the ache was so excessive that she stopped working and was finally recognized with cervical cancer in mid-September. 

“I just need a chance to live once more,” mentioned Burnett, in tears, in an interview with CBC News. “I really feel extreme ache … I take greater than 20 painkillers per day.”

Her SAWP contract expires on Dec. 15, legally requiring her to depart Canada.

Burnett has no concept how she can pay the medical payments she’s already racked up after two surgical procedures, totalling about $81,000. The therapy isn’t lined below Nova Scotia’s Medical Services Insurance (MSI) Program as a result of she’s a momentary worker. She did have medical insurance by way of her work — which offers up to $100,000 value of protection — however she’s undecided it is obtainable as a result of her employer acknowledged in a letter that she was terminated months earlier than her cancer analysis.

The insurance coverage firm hasn’t but defined how her case shall be dealt with, she mentioned, and the cancer has already unfold to her glands. 

She mentioned docs have informed her she nonetheless wants chemotherapy to full her therapy and he or she worries that can take her previous the deadline to depart Canada.

“If I’ve to sleep on the streets, I’ll, however I will not return,” she mentioned. “Jamaican well being care could be very, very, very dangerous.”

She has six kids, a fiancé, and two grandchildren in Jamaica.

She mentioned she needs to live for them. 

Employment terminated when she acquired sick

Although Burnett did not work for 4 months from June to October, her employer, Balamore Farm Ltd. close to Truro, allowed her to stay in employees housing at no cost. 

On Oct. 6, she acquired a discover of termination from Balamore Farm saying her employment ended months earlier than, on June 21, due to her well being points. The letter says she was offered a aircraft ticket to go house alongside with different overseas staff in her group. 

Workers planting strawberries at Balamore Farm. (Balamore Farm Ltd./Facebook)

“We have allowed her to stay in our housing till Oct. 12, 2022, however the job required of this group of momentary overseas staff of this location is full, and they’ll all be returning to [Jamaica],” reads a letter from the proprietor of the farm, Joe Cooper. 

Burnett did not get on the flight house. 

CBC News contacted the farm a number of occasions for remark, however didn’t obtain a response. 

A letter from Balamore Farm on Oct. 6 states that she was terminated 4 months earlier due to her well being. (Anam Khan/CBC)

Since she left the farm in mid-October, she has been discovering momentary lodging in Halifax each two weeks with the assistance of social staff from Victoria General Hospital in Halifax and the Association of Black Social staff.

Migrant staff concern talking out

Many farmers in Nova Scotia depend on SAWP staff from Mexico and Caribbean nations for labour. According to the federal authorities, seasonal agricultural staff pay earnings tax in Canada. 

Stacey Gomez, supervisor of the migrant staff’ program in No One Is Illegal – Halifax/Kjipuktuk, offers data and assist to momentary staff in Nova Scotia. She mentioned they’re typically put in tough conditions when a well being emergency arises.

Foreign staff should have a work allow for a minimal of 12 months to qualify for the MSI program, in accordance to the province. But the federal SAWP program solely permits staff to be in Canada for a most of eight months.

They have restricted entry to non-public insurance coverage and hospital visits, she mentioned, and many concern talking out about work circumstances as a result of they need to assist their households again house. 

Gomez mentioned migrant staff typically obtain inferior well being care. 

“Sometimes a worker is injured on the job, and their employer does not need to take them to the hospital, so typically staff will attain out to us to see if we will assist,” mentioned Gomez.

“We’ve additionally heard of some challenges of racism inside the health-care sector the place migrant staff are visiting the physician, and so they do not have privateness, the place the physician could share data with their employer with out their consent.”

In an electronic mail, Nova Scotia Health Department spokesperson Khalehla Perrault mentioned employers who rent overseas staff have the choice to provide a non-public medical insurance plan to seasonal staff. She mentioned the employer decides the funding of the insurance coverage and what shall be provided in the plan.

“The province isn’t concerned in these discussions or choices,” mentioned Perrault, including all sufferers in the province will obtain wanted well being care. “Insurance standing doesn’t restrict a individual’s capability to obtain therapy in Nova Scotia. However, the price of therapy shall be billed to the person.”

Jeffrey MacDonald, a communications officer at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, didn’t say if Burnett will face deportation if she refuses to depart. He mentioned the IRCC can’t touch upon a hypothetical scenario.

He mentioned if a SAWP worker needs to stay in Canada due to an ongoing harm after this system ends, they will submit an utility to an IRCC processing workplace to prolong their standing or change the circumstances of their standing.

Contribute to provincial economic system however excluded 

Gomez mentioned staff who contribute to the Nova Scotia economic system ought to give you the chance to entry free well being care like every Nova Scotian. 

During the provincial election final yr, about 100 momentary staff shared their issues in regards to the system. Medical entry was among the many prime calls for, alongside with growing the minimal wage to $15, receiving no less than 10 paid sick days, receiving vacation pay and having the ability to apply for everlasting resident standing.

“It ought to be fast that migrant farm staff have entry to well being care in Nova Scotia,” mentioned Gomez.

‘I’m rejected. I’m no person. I’m nobody right here’

A relative of Burnett’s in Toronto started a GoFundMe web page on Sunday to elevate $15,000 that can assist cowl medical payments, treatment, meals and a place to live. As of Wednesday night, it raised over $1,300. 

Burnett is begging the federal government of Nova Scotia to enable her to stay and assist her obtain therapy in the province till Dec. 15 and past if wanted. 

She mentioned she feels she was solely valued in Canada so long as she was wholesome, and when adversity hit, her employers turned a blind eye. 

“I’m rejected. I’m no person. I’m nobody right here,” mentioned Burnett.

For extra tales in regards to the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success tales inside the Black group — try Being Black in Canada, a CBC mission Black Canadians might be pleased with. You can learn extra tales right here.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here