|Mexican migrant worker in Leamington, Ontario. Retrieved from|
According to Janet and Jenna, temporary farm workers in Ontario are not allowed to join trade unions; they are also excluded from provincial regulations about maximum hours and overtime pay. They are obliged to pay taxes and pay into the employment insurance program, even though they can’t benefit from it since they have to return home if they are unemployed. Not surprisingly, most of these hard-working people whom the Canadian government doesn’t want to stay in the country are Latinos or people of African descent.
Temporary workers in Canada aren’t slaves or even indentured laborers: they can quit their jobs if they want and go home. They are paid –often minimum wages—and their housing, such as it is, is provided for them. Technically speaking, their governments are supposed to protect them if they are abused in Canada. But in fact they are caught in a system that tells them that no matter how hard they work in Canada and how long, they can never migrate here. Yet our government claims that it wants people to migrate to fill gaps in our labor supply. “Canadians” born and bred don’t like farm labor jobs, which can last for many hours a day during harvest time.
|Horacio Gallegos, a Mexican migrant worker in Leamington, ON 2002, retrieved|
Right now it’s fashionable to urge people to “eat local,” especially to eat food produced within 100 miles of where you buy it. The idea is that your food will be healthier and you will support local farmers. But as far as I can determine from Jenna and Janet’s work, the farmers I would support if I followed the “eat local” policy might well be exploiters of temporary workers. If I really care about human rights, I would do better to boycott Ontario farmers!
Jenna A. Hennebry and Kerry Preibisch. “A Model for Managed Migration? Re-Examining Best Practices in Canada's Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.” International Migration, 2009.
Janet McLaughlin, “Classifying the ‘ideal migrant worker’: Mexican and Jamaican transnational farm workers in Canada.” Focaal--Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology, vol. 57, 2010, pp. 79-94.
Janet McLaughlin and Jenna Hennebry, “Managed into the Margins: Examining Citizenship and Human Rights of Migrant Workers in Canada,” chapter prepared from Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann and Margaret Walton-Roberts, eds. Slippery Citizenship, in progress.