Behind local produce: Temporary work permits leave working-poor migrants open to exploitation

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Ever wondered how a great portion of the local Canadian produce you eat is grown, picked and packaged? About who plants and harvests many of the trees and decorative plants we buy? Learn more about what often goes on behind the scenes of food and plant production and begin to see things from the perspective of the non-citizen migrant agricultural worker. Everyday throughout the growing and harvest seasons, non-citizen people put in day-long exhausting labour so that Canadians can eat at convenience and inexpensively. Petra Kukacka (president, ENLACE Community Link), Eve Roa and Julio Roa (founders, the Even Better Foundation & of this event) talk about important issues surrounding working-poor migrants throughout Canada, including the recent raids on these people in southern Ontario and the exploitative working conditions that they face.



In order to survive within the globalized market and produce affordable food domestically, the most economically wealthy nations depend on cheap foreign labour in the domestic agricultural sector.

Take, for example, the community of Bradford West Gwillimbury in Ontario. Migrant workers are a major part of this community. Every summer, hundreds of these individuals migrate to this area from around the world to work on farms in the Holland Marsh.

Many of these individuals work under the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and leave for months at a time for the seasonal work. Others are immigrants working illegally without visas. These are not atypical situations for non-citizen people working in Canadian agriculture. Continually facing zero to very limited options, many have been migrating here for work every summer for 30 years. Many work in poor economic and social conditions. All this, in hopes that they can support their families economically back home.

On June 28, 2009 a team of organizations acknowledged their hardships and thanked these people for their hard work with Migrant Worker Appreciation Day at the Bradford and District Memorial Community Centre grounds. At the event, Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Doug White, who is known for his support of the local migrant worker community, and the town council, officially proclaimed the day to be Migrant Worker Appreciation Day in town.

Organized by ENLACE Community Link and Even Better Foundation, this is an annual event that started six years ago. It welcomes and pays tribute to migrant workers working in and around the community of Bradford. Both organizations are dedicated to supporting Mexican and other Spanish-speaking migrant workers. The event itself had featured a soccer game between local medical students and soccer savvy workers, barbecue, ceramic art workshop, raffle and live Mexican musical performance. All are welcome to this celebration, so come on out and show support for these important members of our communities at the next Migrant Worker Appreciation Day!
To get involved with campaigns that demand from the Canadian government that they grant full-status to everyone, see 'CONTACTS' below. Campaigns involve demanding that the government not make even more exploitative, nor, expand, current temporary migrant worker programs, and that they not create any more of these programs from now on.

of grassroots, charitable and union organizations working to help protect the basic human rights of people working under the SAWP and the broader non-citizen community:

ENLACE Community Link
[email protected]

Even Better
[email protected]

Justicia For Migrant Workers-Toronto
[email protected]

United Food & Commercial Workers Canada
[email protected]

Migrante Ontario
[email protected]

[email protected]

Canadian Labour Congress, Ontario Regional Office
[email protected]

[email protected]

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