Migrants under Canada’s temporary agricultural work programs have launched a campaign, called Harvesting Freedom, for the right to gain permanent residency so that they are eligible for most of the social benefits Canadian citizens receive. The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) and the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) restrict the dealings of migrant workers to a single employer, so raising concerns about unsafe and unfair work conditions can threaten to lead to deportation. These circumstances can result from the poor regulation and enforcement of the program’s rules, and inadequate punishment if employers are found to be in violation.
Harvesting Freedom was launched on Jan. 25 by the Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW) advocacy group, who plan to petition the federal government for the entire 2016 year. If migrant workers were to receive immigration status, they would no longer be restricted from working for other employers, be able to stay in Canada for longer than their current eight-month work permits allow, and have a better chance of bringing their family to Canada as well. Problems with SAWP and TFWP are the result of rules and the enforcement of these being a combination of federal, provincial, and municipal responsibility, so jurisdiction is sometimes blurred. As a result, workers are put at further risk when poor job conditions or the premature end of a work season force them to work for under-the-table money, where conditions are likely to be even worse.
The launch of Harvesting Freedom was covered by alt-media organizations Rabble and iPolitics, as well as market-focused outlets like United Food and Commercial Workers Canadaand the Migrant Worker Solidarity Network. There was minimal coverage of it in the mainstream media – one piece by the National Post – and a four-year-old story on seasonal work conditions and migrant work programs by the CBC.
Alyse Kotyk, “Migrant farmworkers call on Trudeau for permanent residency” Rabble, January 28, 2016, http://rabble.ca/news/2016/01/migrant-farmworkers-call-on-trudeau-permanent-residency.
Alia Dharssi, “Migrant farm workers call for permanent residency, ability to bring families to Canada” National Post, January 26, 2016, http://news.nationalpost.com/news/migrant-farm-workers-call-for-permanent-residency-ability-to-bring-families-to-canada.
BJ Siekierski, “Migrant workers asking Liberal government for permanent residency upon arrival” iPolitics, January 25, 2016, http://ipolitics.ca/2016/01/25/migrant-workers-asking-liberal-government-for-permanent-residency-upon-arrival/.
Kazi Statna, “Canada’s migrant farm worker system – what works and what’s lacking” CBC, February 8, 2012, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/canada-s-migrant-farm-worker-system-what-works-and-what-s-lacking-1.1142489.
Student Researcher: Alex Antoneshyn (University of Regina)
Faculty Evaluator: Patricia W. Elliott (University of Regina)