On behalf of OPSEU’s Executive Board, I wish to express my condolences to the family of Stan Raper, one of Canada’s leading advocates for the rights of farm workers, on the occasion of his sudden passing last week at age 56.
For more than two decades Stan Raper fought tirelessly on behalf migrant and farm workers, whether it was spearheading organizing drives, speaking at rallies, campaigning inside the halls of power, or preparing cases that made their way to our highest courts.
He learned the challenges faced by farm workers when, as a teenager, he took a job at a field and greenhouse operation near Coldwater, Ontario, northwest of Orillia. It was a sector of the workforce which, historically, was overlooked by labour law and often neglected when health and safety regulations were drafted.
Raper held a string of prominent positions in the Canadian labour movement and with progressive forces. From 1994 to 1999, he served as Canadian coordinator of the United Farmworkers of America. In 2000, he campaign across Ontario farmlands driving an RV where he drew public attention to the plight of migrant workers.
Raper became national coordinator of the Agriculture Workers Program for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). He founded the Agriculture Workers Alliance, which operated agricultural worker support centres in Ontario, Québec and British Columbia.
Raper was an active participant in the UFCW’s legal challenge to the Supreme Court regarding the constitutional rights of agricultural workers to unionize; he fought for their right to be covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in Ontario; and he campaigned for the right of migrant workers to collect employment insurance.
It’s hard to imagine a person who felt more passionately about the rights of farm and migrant workers. Stan Raper’s activism and inspiration will be sorely missed.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union