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Wednesday, 02 July 2014 14:33

The urban/rural divide is no myth

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The sound of Darlene Dunlop’s voice over the phone sounded all too familiar on June 26.

It’s that one of disappointed bewilderment someone has when they can’t believe what they just saw or experienced.
On a day which should have been one of excitement for Dunlop, her partner Eric Musekamp and she were heading back to their southeast Alberta home from a press conference in Calgary.
It should have been one of excitement as highly-respected University of Calgary professor Jennifer Koshan and her law students presented research which presented a “strong and compelling case that it’s unconstitutional for the government to continue to exclude farmworkers from Occupational Health and Safety legislation, the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Employment Standards Code.”
In this day and age where trying to get anything done through the government and legislative process takes years to accomplish, if at all, and going through the courts seems to be (incredibly) more effective, this is further evidence which goes to support the Farmworkers Union of Alberta’s claim that agriculture labourers and their families in this province are extremely vulnerable if something unfortunate occurs on the job because of the lack of provincial legislation protecting them.
Musekamp and Dunlop, along with Calgary Liberal MLA Dr. David Swann, a former Medicine Hat-area Palliser Health Region Chief Medical Officer and the Alberta Association of Medical Health Officers’ president, held a news conference to excitedly put forth the findings found by Koshan.
“The absence of even the most basic protections for farmworkers is a made-in-Alberta injustice that has no place in our modern society,” said Swann. “This is a discriminatory and almost Dickensian throwback to another time when workers had no rights and the law of the jungle prevailed. It’s time for Alberta to move forward by setting right this long-standing wrong.”
Fascinating? Yes. Government, damning? Absolutely. Compelling? Yes ... well, maybe not enough for the Calgary media.
Dunlop says one radio station showed up for the news conference. No newspapers. No T.V. One radio station.
We’re not sure whether this is another example of the furthering rural/urban divide or if it’s still the same.
Maybe it’s just a sad representation of where farm workers rank on the provincial government’s importance list or maybe even worse, the public’s.
If the government knew the public cared or were willing to change political allegiance because of this inaction on the government’s part to include farm workers in OHS for example, you can be darn sure the two dailies in Calgary would be there and maybe not covering as much of the Western Canada High School’s change of their sports’ team’s nickname due to concerns of racial sensitivity. Another important story yes, but surely if the entire province was worried about the people who contribute to the economy and help put food on the table, the media would deem it important enough to send someone.
Unfortunately, such is the not case and after being ignored, delayed and shuffled aside for the last 10 to 15 years by the government it will be interesting to see how this information from Koshan and her law students will be utilized.
For the Farmworkers Union, perhaps it will be way to garner everyone’s attention.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor