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Lightning strike slays lettuce harvester, 64, in St. Rémi




Jan Ravensbergen

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The Gazette

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Lightning strike slays lettuce harvester, 64, in St. Rémi
Man was of Guatemalan origin: SQ
By Jan Ravensbergen, The GazetteJuly 18, 2012 11:56 AM
MONTREAL – A 64-year-old man who was struck by lightning Tuesday evening in an open field south of the city was declared dead on arrival in Anna Laberge Hospital in Châteauguay, Sgt. Gregory Gomez del Prado of the Sûreté du Québec said Wednesday.

The man was working into the evening – during unsettled weather – as part of a field crew harvesting lettuce in the fertile agricultural belt south of Montreal.

The deadly strike occurred at the La Légumière Y C Inc. farm on Rang Ste. Thérèse in St. Rémi, according to the address provided on the police report.

Co-workers reported the man was hit at 7:30 p.m.

"I believe it was a single bolt," del Prado said.

Although precise details on the circumstances weren't immediately available, a woman who answered the phone at the farm said owner Luc Constantineau had ordered that workers return from his fields because of a change for the worse in the weather, and that he had driven out a school bus to pick them up.

The man was fatally struck as he and about 20 other field workers were "walking or running toward the bus," said the woman, who spoke on condition that her name not be published.

"Luc and others performed CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) on him until the ambulance arrived," the woman said.

An autopsy and a Quebec coroner's report is anticipated.

The name of the deceased and his place of permanent residence were not disclosed.

The woman said the man lived in Montreal and had been working on an occasional basis at the farm for a number of years.

"He was of Guatemalan origin," del Prado said, which the woman independently confirmed.

The woman said the deceased man was not on the federal summer-agricultural-worker program, under which a considerable amount of seasonal labour is temporarily imported each growing season from Latin American nations.

La Légumière Y C employs and houses a number of such seasonal imports, the woman said.

In a recent report on the increasing importation of such stoop labour, the United Food and Commercial Workers of Canada, known in Quebec as TUAC Canada, pegged the number of seasonally imported migrant farmworkers in Quebec each summer at close to 4,000.

In another report issued at the start of this year, one with a considerably broader scope, the national union said it deals with more than 50,000 migrant workers each year.

Those migrants – not just those brought in to toil in Canadian farm fields, but also caregivers and others – face considerable challenges, according to the union.

"The threat of termination and repatriation, whether explicit or implicit, continues to prevent migrant workers from being able to voice concerns about employment standards, health and safety violations, housing, or transportatio," the latter report states.

"Employers continue to misinform migrant workers regarding their right to continue to reside in Canada for the remainder of their work visa, even though they may be laid off ... Unscrupulous employers continue to subject migrant workers to low pay, dangerous and hazardous work conditions, unpaid overtime and mistreatment without recourse due to their power to repatriate workers at will.

"In rare cases, when workers have chosen to speak out about workplace violations, employers have used repatriation as a successful means of controlling and silencing their workforce."

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette
File shot from June 2008 shows migrant workers outside what was then the newly opened Migrant Worker Support Centre in St. Rémi, southwest of Montreal, which remains in operation according to Local 501 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union. About 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 17, 2012, a 64-year-old man of Guatemalan origin – apparently a resident of Montreal and not a seasonally imported summer worker from Latin America – was struck and killed by lightning in an open field at the La Légumière Y C Inc. farm on nearby Rang Ste. Thérèse.
Photograph by: John Morstad, Gazette files

Economic sectors

Agriculture and horticulture workers

Content types

Policy analysis and Documented cases of abuse

Target groups

Public awareness

Geographical focuses

Canada, Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, British Columbia, Other provinces, Federal, Guatemala, Nova Scotia, and National relevance

Spheres of activity

Agriculture, Health sciences, Law, Management of human resources, and Political science